From ‘yes, but’ to ‘how can we?’ and ‘why not?’

Scott Mcleod, University Affairs, Jun 24, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

One of those old management tricks is to get people to stop saying "yes but" and to instead start saying "yes and". That's what Scott Mcleod is doing in this blog post. "Instead of allowing those resistance points to dominate and defeat promising ideas, design thinkers work hard to try and reframe opposition into possibility by asking the question how can we?" Well, count me as a fan of "yes but." Why? Because when "yes but" is appropriate, it is because we have been presented with a complex question by the other person. Usually, the part that's implicit is the plan being proposed. Then something really obvious is adduced in defense of the plan. For example: the plan is to fire half the staff. The manager says, "We need to increase our profits, don't we?" You can't say "no". You have to say "yes". But if you say "yes and" you are agreeing to fire the employees. "Yes but" allows us to make the legitimate objection that you can't grow profits by cutting staff. So it is with this post. I can say "yes, Chris Lehmann  and Jesse McLean obtained impressive results. But that doesn't justify using sleight of hand to eliminate legitimate objections."

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