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Thought Leadership

Creating a “path to yes” to spur innovation

March 22, 2021

The prospect of change can make many employees shut down and look for reasons not to do something. Here’s how to shift that dynamic.

In these times of disorienting uncertainty — made even harder by a turbocharged urgency to rethink business models and ways of working — companies face a huge challenge in trying to get their employees to be open to the necessary shifts that drive transformation. It’s a tall order, because when human beings are under stress, the prospect of further disruption represents a simple equation: Change = uncertainty = risk.

Although some people thrive in such ambiguity, most people tend to be resistant to change. I’ve seen this dynamic many times in the organizations I have worked for and worked with, which has led to a theory of life inside big organizations: If you give enough people enough time, they will find reasons why something is a bad idea. It can be hard to get people out of that groove of negativity, especially because the naysayers often think they are adding value by seeing around corners and pointing out risks.

I recently heard a disarmingly simple approach to shifting the tone. Mary Finch, the chief human resources officer at DXC Technology, a computer services company based in Tysons, Va., said that even before the negativity starts, she will ask her colleagues to shift their focus to finding a “path to yes.”

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The ExCo Group’s Adam Bryant wrote this article for his column in Strategy + Business. It was originally published here.