Yes, no, or not yes?

A little while back I wrote a review about Linchpin, and I've been thinking about this book and the message it contains a bit more lately. One of the central themes is about taking initiative, not asking for permission to do things, and doing incredible and remarkable work.

I've noticed something lately that ties into this whole theme and it's around when ideas are kicked around and shared on a team. I've realized that the most common feedback you'll get sometimes is "not yes". It's not no and it's not yes. It's just "not yes".

It sounds confusing at first - but really it makes a lot of sense. Because if someone says either "yes" or "no" to you - they've just put themselves on the hook. Or more accurately, you have put them on the hook. If you fail, now it's not your fault, it's the fault of the person that gave you permission - or told you not to do something. This too is a theme in Linchpin where Seth Godin writes that very rarely do people actually say No.

It's interesting because if you start looking for this not yes "answer", you'll probably find that you get it all the time. And while at first this may frustrate you, it's actually a huge opportunity. Because what "not yes" really means is "Do whatever you want - but own it."

That's a great answer because then you can do your great creative work, make something happen, and do something amazing.

There's another opportunity here too though and it's when you're giving feedback instead of seeking it. If you think someone else has a great idea - say YES! - and own it with them. Help them make it real, help them implement it, and help them be successful. The world we live in today is amazing because just two or three people can truly accomplish awesome things. And if your motivation is not to get credit for something - but is instead to help someone implement their great idea, you'll be doing great work, and having a great time while you're doing it.

Likewise, if you think something is a terrible idea, have the courage to stand up and say NO! What if the CEO of an investment bank said NO - we're not doing Credit default swaps? What if a construction worker said NO! - we should't build another McMansion right now - and convinced the owner of the business of that reality? Think they'd be out of a job right now? I don't.

Looking back, none of this is new. People say "not yes" all the time. It's just crystalized in my brain a little more lately; maybe it's because I've been reading a lot of good books such as Linchpin, REWORK, Delivering Happiness, Drive and Flow.

So when you've got a great idea, or a new feature to implement, look for the "not yes" answer. Then, own it and go do something amazing.