• WisBusiness

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In this economy are you the "what about ..." or the "yes, if ..." guy?


By Joe Plasterer
I recently had lunch with an old friend. Jim, one of the most detail-oriented project guys I've ever met, was reflecting upon the reputation of another of our colleagues, Gary. A co-worker of Jim's said that he hated working with Gary, because Gary was always saying, "Well what about this and what about that and what if this or that..." Jim's coworker said Gary was always coming up with "What about..." scenarios and he never did anything to move the effort forward. As far as Jim's coworker was concerned, Gary was useless because he didn't do anything besides throw up road blocks. Gary wasn't considered an asset or a contributor. He was dead weight.

Then Jim asked me, "Am I a 'What about...' guy"? He reflected that in his experience there are the three types of people, the "Yes, we can", the group which he put me in; the "What about people"; and the "No, it won't work because..." people. But Jim was concerned about self-defeating language he heard recently coming out of his son's mouth. He began to question himself as the source of that language. Thus, his introspective question of me.

In this economy, it's a darn good question. Two thoughts come to mind...

1. In chaos there is opportunity
2. Those who dare win

It's fair to say that there is plenty of chaos. You could spend a lot of time cataloging and sorting it out. There is also great opportunity. The current business models are being reinvented right in front of us. Institutions are disappearing, rising, falling and being replaced. The bold will reap great rewards. Of course, being bold requires action, not distraction.

This brings me to a favorite book about a favorite brand and their go-to group of people. The book is "The Imagnineering Workout" by the Disney Imagineers, published in 2005. For those of you who don't know, The Imagineers are the creative bunch of writers, designers, engineers, artists, musicians, modelers, producers and more who deliver unforgettable experiences at the Walt Disney theme parks, cruise ships and more.

Early in the book there is a great segment by Martin Sklar, Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. He relates the story of Buzz Price, the feasibility research brain behind the development of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Buzz was known for the "Yes, if..." method of analyzing projects which "...pointed to what needed to be done to make the possible plausible." Sklar relates that Walt liked this language, " 'No, because' is the language of a deal killer. 'Yes, if...' is the language of a deal maker."

As I look at the chaotic opportunity in front of us right now, I think about the power of "Yes, if..." to restructure the business landscape, create new entities and partnerships, deliver new products and services.

So if you are an employee or a budding entrepreneur, who do you want to be? Are you a "Yes, if...", "What about..." or "No, because" person. Who do you think your employer, your clients or your partners want to work with?

And one real world touch point, or rather sword point. An entrepreneurial friend with a great company and product that is landing national brands recently related to me that he's made a dedicated effort to let go of all pessimists on his team. The only people that can move forward are those who are looking forward with excitement.

*No actual names were used in this piece. The Garys I do know I have great respect for.

-- Plasterer is an entrepreneur and technologist. He and writer, Melinda Starkweather, provide strategic communications and online community solutions for associations and startups at http://www.starkweatherassociates.com.

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