This morning I had the chance to learn from Harvey Alvy, one of the authors of Learning from Lincoln, one of my favorite leadership texts. Alvy was discussing what makes for initiatives that are truly powerful and purposeful, and had identified a number of “red flags” that might deter us from our work focusing on the things that matter most.
One of the red flags that Alvy explored was this idea of “historical amnesia,” where we tend to forget what has and hasn’t worked before. In other words, what are the roots of the reform in question, and does it really change anything, or is it simply the same gift with new wrapping?
To combat this, Alvy discussed the need for us to embrace “timeliness” and always keep our thinking focused on extending ideas, as a way to not only grow good work, but also to prevent ourselves form losing sight of what has come before.
Alvy shared the talk move of “Yes, and. . . “ as opposed to “Yes, but. . . “ which made me think quite a bit about my own ability to build on ideas, without forgetting the past. In fact, along with a great session facilitated by Lisa Hollenbach, at ECET2NY914 in the fall, Alvy’s mention of the power of “and” has helped me to really make a shift in my learning and leadership.
Whenever possible these days, I do whatever I can to remove “but” from my vocabulary. It isn’t that I don’t see the value of hesitation, or the need to make sure we go slow to go fast. Instead, I value that an extension of an idea is much more powerful than a restriction of one. Even if an idea never blossoms, I would rather empower others to build than to demolish. If demolition is necessary, then I would rather others to have explored all implications prior, and without me shortening their design cycle.
While both words have only three letters, “and” is much more empowering than “but.” And if we believe that empowerment is where the power lies, then we should do all that is in our power to make “and” the term we use consistently.