The Language of No

What is the Language of No?

At it’s worst, the Language of No are the words used to shut you down.  To make you stop believing.  To belittle your ideas.  At best, it’s used to make sure you know what the hell you’re talking about.

What does the Language of No sound like?

  • What’s the ROI?
  • This isn’t how we normally do things
  • Where will resources come from?

The Language of No can be used by people who honestly don’t understand.  They try to understand by putting the idea in their terms: value, cost, risk.  Their inquiries have honest intentions.  Let’s call them the lambs.

Others use the Language of No to defend turf, to ridicule and diminish.  The questions are used to find weakness that can exploited. Let’s call them the lions.

So how do you know the lambs from the lions?

Consider the context.

What’s the ROI?

Here’s the key –> What does success look like?

It’s entirely possible that your nascent idea doesn’t have a monetary return, at least not in the short run.  Some activities are deemed “business as usual”.  Your website doesn’t have an ROI.  Nor does your business card nor cell phone.  You just need it.  The thing is, business as usual changes over time.  Until recently fax machines used to be mission critical, so were typewriters.  Soon being involved with your customers on social networks will be mandatory.

Consider the context of the question.  Is the person trying to understand the value of your initiative or are they trying to blindly state that your work is without merit?

This isn’t how we normally do things

Here’s the key –> Is your organization focused on not changing things or are you trying to differentiate?

There are certain rules that shouldn’t be broken: regulations, laws, systematic controls.  But for the most part organizations need to continue to innovate.  If you have metrics, use them.  Look for areas where tactics are not delivering results and point to these as areas to improve.  Institute A/B testing to challenge the status quo.  As many have said, try new things and fail fast.

You will have people in your organization that are inclined to try new things and those that hold on to tradition.  You need both to have a successful company, but be able to tell the difference.

Where will resources come from?

Here’s the key –> Actually, there’s no key here.

Innovation without execution is pointless.  If you don’t have a budget or resources you may have to hack the system.  Look for a project that’s been cancelled and see if you can claim those resources.  Or attach your initiative to a project that’s already accepted.  Can you get pieces from the cloud?  Can you change the process? I’ve even heard of people that have kept the title of an approved project but swapped out the actual project! <tricky>

The sound of the Language of No can be deafening.  Teach the lambs. Fight the lions.

photo credit: Salvatore Vuono

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