Posted by DrewMarshal
The art of leadership is saying ‘no’, not saying ‘yes.’ It is very easy to say ‘yes.’ -Tony Blair
In a world awash in opportunities there is so much to be explored (and so much time to wasted.) Let’s spread ourselves too thin, shall we? There are so many ways in which energy […]
In a world awash in opportunities there is so much to be explored (and so much time to wasted.) Let’s spread ourselves too thin, shall we? There are so many ways in which energy may be spent, resources consumed, and money burned. For an organization with IADD (Innovation Attention Deficit Disorder) a world with multiple possibilities is not a good thing. Indeed it may be crippling.
How does this affliction manifest itself?
The primary symptom is an inability to say ‘no.’ In organizations living with IADD any idea is a good idea. Each one is full of bright shiny possibility. And apparently it is a universe in which the available resources and time are both infinite. If we cannot say ‘no’ they must be infinite, surely? Enthusiastically saying ‘yes’ to each new idea is a great habit to foster when in the middle of brainstorming session. Away from the ideation process, unless an organization focuses its efforts by agreeing to accomplish only a critical few projects, every new ‘yes’ simply means delaying or disrupting the delivery of anything of value. Saying yes means having to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ a lot.
Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best. –John C. Maxwell
The inability to say ‘no’ more often than not finds its beginnings in an organization’s lack of, or poorly articulated strategy. In recent years, with technological change progressing at an ever-increasing pace, the notion of an organization actually forming a forward-looking, long-term strategy has seemed quaint. It was as though technology would cover up any missteps with its inherent magical powers. How wrong-headed that has proved to be.
Those who choose to ignore the necessity of having a robust strategy pay for its absence. Usually that cost is in poor quality products or services, missed customer deadlines, and eventually lost market share. All of which is in addition to the internal conflict, chaos and fire-fighting that arises when priorities are unclear across an organization. Strategy is the framework of choices that help an organization determine what it will become. It clearly defines what it will do, but more importantly it defines a much great category of things that it will not do. Without a strategy there is nothing against which an idea might be tested and found wanting. Strategy creates the constraints within which innovation thrives.
One of the reasons why Apple is so successful today is not only because they are so innovative (although it helps!), rather their success lies in an organization-wide capability for how to say ‘no.’ Focus and constraint are just as much a part of their design and innovation processes as is their attention to detail and the creation of things with which their customers fall in madly love.
Apple’s innovation strategy, the strategy of delving into customer usage to identify needs and create use cases, enables them to make clear decisions about the functions products will perform and the technologies vital to include to deliver them. From this foundation they then drop 20% of non-required functionalities to perfectly design solutions to meet 80% of key user needs. This application of the Pareto Principal means that they are not locked into a cycle of responding to ongoing requests and demands. They can set limits and say ‘no’ with the understanding that their attention to detail will lead to excellence in user experience. Their present market cap would testament to that level of focus.
By defining a clear strategy, articulating it and communicating it across an organization so that it is commonly understood, a clear set of conditions for saying ‘no’ is established. While the publically held notion of innovation might be one of endless possibility, positivity and saying ‘yes!’ to everything. The truly innovative know that it is not the number of ideas, it is the number of ideas that are executed that wins the day. Go on, deny the Innovation Attention Deficit Disorder and create an effective innovation culture. Rebel a little, go against the flow, and know when to say ‘no.’
What is a rebel? A man who says ‘no.’ –Albert Camus
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Nathan Gibbs