Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thought for the Day - Why Saying 'No' Can Restrict Creative Inputs

No. No. No.
I have been trying to get rid of this habit of mine where I begin a sentence with No. Most times it happens when someone says something I don't agree with.

Sometimes I just say No because I got used to saying No. That sort of ends it. Or restricts it.

'It' being the conversation or interaction.

My biggest teacher here is a friend of mine who says No to me equally well or even better than I can. A typical conversation between us goes like this.
'Maybe...'I say.
'No', he says.
'But ...', I persist.
'No', he says.
'Umm', I start.
'No', he says.

That ends it. We move on to other things. The times when I agree with him, we talk. Else he says No until it dies.

Only one thought must live. All others must die.

Imagine what happens to any thought when it is killed even before it comes out of your mouth. It happens all the time. In conversations with friends, with family, with children, with students, with young colleagues. The moment they open their minds (and then their mouths) we say No.

Every time a thought is finding a way to express itself, to live, to thrive, to explore, we snip it off with our razor sharp No. A thought is like a flower or a small child in that sense. It needs time, it needs encouragement, it needs patience.
'So what do you think...'
'I think ...'
'Is it possible ...'
'It's a wild idea but...'
'Really.. tell me...'
'I don't know but maybe..'
'Go on...'
'You see...' (and this is where the energy kicks in)
'Cool...looks interesting..'

Ah. Freedom. The thought gets space. Its not rejected even before it showed its face to the sun. Its given a chance. Now it can grow. Yeaaah.

Every time we say No, we restrict and throttle creative inputs. I know that my friend misses out on many creative inputs from me (and I have many I tell you) because we know what's coming. A big No.

In fact everyone in his office knows that. So, they stopped saying anything. They play within his rules and don't stretch themselves. Why? Because he is not allowing them to stretch themselves.

Know what his biggest complaint about his employees is?
'They don't stretch themselves,' he says. 'I don't know how I can make them stretch themselves.'
Such is life.

Say Yes. Be open. Let them try. Let them fail.

Let them learn that failing is not bad. That not trying is bad.

Then when you still support them, they will find a way.
They will stretch themselves. They will exceed their limitations. And yours.
Say Yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes.


Anonymous said...

Well. Ironically, a lot of research has established that focus is important for innovation and creativity. And saying "no" to distractions and alternative options (the foundation of self-control) is a key determinant of long term success for children.

So, it may be knowing when to say yes and when to say no...Rather than just being a yes person :)

Harimohan said...

Thanks Anon for sharing. I completely agree with you that the habit of saying No to distractions and short term gratification is important. Also that it's is more important to say Yes to delayed gratification for long term success. Agree again to the fact that it is about knowing when to say Yes and when to say No. Many times saying No saves much unnecessary trouble, energy and time and is a freeing habit in itself.

I was approaching this post (a little flippantly and shoddily perhaps) from the perspective of how a manager, a parent, a coach, a teacher can restrict creative output from their wards by being closed to any other approach other than their own. It's severely restricting and shuts out all creativity, thought. I experienced this with my own managers. Some would get the best work out of me by letting me be - giving me the task and letting me figure out how to go about it. The ones who got the worst work from me were those who laid down all rules and boundaries and there was no space for me to do anything else except present what's been already told. There was a huge difference in the thought, effort and the output. In these cases, my experience has been that the payoff of saying Yes, beats that of saying No by a big margin.

I hope that I made my intent a bit more clearer this time. I'd certainly welcome your take on this view as well.

Anonymous said...

Yes :) this makes sense...

You are speaking about the external world and external sources (such as parents, teachers, managers) creating opportunities by saying yes..That makes sense...Then I suppose, it is up to the individual, through their self discipline to pick the "yes" options and decline the "no" options. So both perspectives are needed. Thank you.

Harimohan said...

Thanks Anon.
When we represent the external, the Yes, is the space, the supportive and encouraging environment that we create. Its the attitude that allows, fosters and nurtures growth. It requires us to be good facilitators, great teachers. (Mostly very secure as people. Again this is not about us, its about them.)

Those students and wards who are exposed to such an environment where free thought is encouraged, where they can be bold and not be punished for exploring original thought, they would I reckon, also have the propensity to explore deeper, to delay gratification etc because they are more secure as people.

Just a thought. Not sure if it adds up. But I do think that secure people can delay gratification more easily. And be happier too despite all that goes on around.

Rajendra said...

I think it does add up.

Sushil Kumar said...

Absolutely True Sir! But then in some cases, we do get an idea of what the other person is going to say and what its impact is going to be. In such scenarios, I think it is a good option to use a NO. Then again, I do agree with you that, many Nos have stopped many ideas from getting materialized.

Harimohan said...

Thanks Raja.

Thanks Sushil. I am presuming here that we (as the Yes sayers) are in really secure space. Which means that we (teachers, managers, coaches, parents) can choose to act in the manner that may be the best finally - even if we do listen to a completely different point of view from the ward with all seriousness.

By saying No, we are limiting and killing the thought and even more dangerously, stopping all future creative thought. By listening, we are being open to the contribution, we may even let that idea be explored if it has an iota of a chance, or we may, after weighing all possibilities, still choose what we think may be best.

It's a secure person I feel who can play with the Yes and No with the greatest impact. Saying Yes in circumstances which only reflect your insecurity is not the need of this person. Nor even saying No to prove superiority or worse, to hide ignorance or lack of capability to debate.

They say that a a leader or a manager one must be compassionate to the dreams and visions of our wards (encourage them to reach the skies) and be very strict with the work ethic (discipline, work ethic with almost zero tolerance so they build the capacity to reach the sky). Most times we find ones who are still learning - teachers, coaches and managers - doing the opposite. The choice of what to say Yes to and what to say No to then becomes obvious. All that encourages growth - Yes. All the hinders growth - No.