Never Mind the Naysayers


One Simple Phrase Stifles Business Success

“That won’t work.”

How often have your heard these three little words? They’re the enemy of innovation, and are all to common in board rooms, staff meetings and pitches.

“That won’t work in my business.”

“That won’t work here.”

“That won’t work for us.”

“That won’t work because…”

This insidious phrase cropped up in a conversation I had recently with a group of business owners. One suggested an advertising program he was excited about, and another immediately responded, “That won’t work in my business.”

He jumped to an immediate conclusion, as many of us do. But’s what’s really behind that assumption, and how does it affect your potential business success? Let’s take a look.

“That won’t work…” is typically a variation on “I don’t want to” based on preconceived notions and lack of interest in exploring new options. It really means:

  • I tried it once, and failed.
  • Someone told me it won’t work.
  • That’s not consistent with my plan right now.
  • I’m not interested in your input.
  • I don’t want to change.
  • I’m afraid to try it.

It’s a reflexive deflection, an excuse to avoid the work required to investigate alternatives, test different approaches, or get expert assistance. All of these require effort and for a busy executive, saying no can seem a lot easier.

[Tweet “What didn’t work in the past can and will work now. Especially if you try it in a new way. #success”]

Unfortunately, squashing ideas with this split-second response can kill growth and innovation. Don’t let it.

After you read this, tune in to conversations around you. Do variations on “It won’t work” creep up regularly in your business? If so, make it stop.

Be open and receptive, and encourage your employees do the same. When an idea is presented, listen carefully before responding. If you disagree, dig a little. Ask questions like…

“Why do you think that will work for us?”

“If we try that, what obstacles should we watch for?”

“What are some examples of how or where this has been successful?”

Still dubious? Explore your own biases and how they impact your business success. Is your response motivated by past history such as a personal experience, anecdotal evidence or even hearsay (“if ‘everyone’ says it, it must be true.”)

It’s possible that what many call conventional wisdom is simply an outmoded assumption you need to put to rest. When you take the time to challenge the norm, the results can be dramatic.

Many wildly successful people have been told, “That will never work,” and wisely ignored that advice. Nearly every industry-transforming breakthrough is preceded by someone blocking the innovation for fear of trying, fear of failure or (even worse) fear of success.

Don’t be one of them. Let “That will never work” be a rallying cry, inspiring you to prove the naysayers wrong.

Image via Flickr

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