Say yes. Then figure out how

Have you ever heard of this saying before?

I have a funny relationship with it. Years ago, when I worked for a leasing company, my boss taught this to me. Skeptically, I tried it out. Sometimes it worked, sometimes I got hosed badly and ended up screwing over my clients. It seemed like a debatable business strategy and after leaving the leasing company, I promptly forgot that advice.

But lately I’ve started hearing it again. I think it’s that entrepreneurial voice inside of me that is pushing me while I start up my latest brand.

Two innovation case studies from Toyota. The actual title of this article at HBR is “Use Tension and Conflict to Create Breakthrough Products. I don’t think that’s the value of this article. The real value of this article is in telling the story of how two seemingly impossible goals were achieved because the company decided first and then figured out how later.

This reminds me of an episode of West Wing in which Rob Lowe’s character laments that they almost cured cancer in their State of the Union speech. Then he referenced JFK’s State of the Union speech in which he said that within the decade, the US would put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. JFK’s administration didn’t know how they were going to do it. They just said “yes” and then figured out how. Rob Lowe’s character suggested that the fictional Bartlett administration almost did the same thing with cancer but decided not to at the last minute.

On a much less grand scale than landing on the moon, I tried the same thing twice last year:

The first time had to do with investing in US real estate from Canada — something I didn’t know how to do. I said yes and then worked through the details. It took a long time (and a bit of effort and expense) but I made it work and I’m glad I did. The knowledge I gained has been absolutely invaluable!

The second time had to do with taking on another client: I was fully booked and yet I really wanted to work with another client. So I said yes to the prospective client and then figured out how. So far I’m 3 months into the project and enjoying the challenge… it IS a challenge and it continually pushes me out of my comfort zone and that’s a good thing.

I don’t want to stop with just those two experiences. I’m so glad I said yes first! I want to think about how to do this more often in my business.

What about you? Are there opportunities for you to say yes and then figure out how? It’s scary sometimes. And yes, it can even be risky sometimes, but it’s so much more rewarding.

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