Start with Yes

"It's No Problem!"  Image courtesy of quinn.anya

"It's No Problem!" 

Image courtesy of quinn.anya

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute. We technical guys (and girls) can be a somewhat negative lot. Someone on the pastoral, programming or creative team will come up with an idea and look to us to see how it can be done. Too often, we start with, “No,” and end up at a grudging, “Yes.”

That tends to give us the reputation as “dream killers,” and I’m not sure this is what we really want to convey. Now to be sure, sometimes these ideas from creative are a bit crazy and occasionally impossible (the computer screens from Minority Report don’t actually exist…). 

But when we start with, “No,” we don’t do ourselves (or our profession) any favors. Instead, what if we started with, “Well, yes, we can do that, though it might have to look a little different.” Or maybe it doesn’t have to look different, maybe we just have to re-arrange our schedule for the week. Or maybe we can do it, but it’s going to cost XX dollars, is that OK?

As I talked about in my Studio 60 post a few weeks ago, I love Cal’s attitude. He always said, “It’s no problem.” Sometimes it was a problem, and a big problem at that. But by starting with, “Yes” and working from there, we open a dialog rather than shutting it down. 

As technical artists, we really should welcome the idea to do the impossible; it’s what we’re good at. Personally, I get really energized when we pull off something that didn’t seem possible at the start. Sometimes it looks different, or the idea has to be altered significantly, but if we can deliver on the concept, we not only derive great satisfaction, we also build a lot of credibility with leadership.

And with great credibility comes great latitude. If we normally start off with, “Yes,” on those occasions when we say, “No,” they know we’re not being difficult or lazy, we actually can’t do it. I once had one of my bass players tell me that he appreciates the way we always try to accommodate their needs. And on the rare occasions that we do say no, it’s because it really can’t be done. That’s why he never argues or pushes the point when we say no; he knows we would if we could.

Of course there are limits, and I’m not going to try to define every possible scenario for you. You’re smart enough to know when to hold your ground and not commit to the impossible. But sometimes, we say “no” often enough that it becomes the default. So let’s change that. 

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