How many of you went through school being told not to start sentences with the word “and”? I know I did. But, I could never break the habit of doing it. Seems like every time I wanted to add emphasis, I found the “and.” And every time, a zealous English teacher “conjunction monitor” would call me out on it.
Actually, it’s something we should all do more often. Find the “and,” that is.
Funny thing about “and.” As a conjunction, it’s a word that connects. So is “but.” Yet there is a dramatic difference between the two words. Think about it. When you’re talking with someone, for example, how often do you say, “Yes, and?” Probably not very often. “Yes, but” on the other hand is a knee-jerk phrase that comes naturally to most of us.
Although they are frequently, and carelessly, used interchangeably, the words have an opposite impact. This one word difference completely changes a discussion. “Yes and” is a bridge that leads to acceptance, implies a willingness to embrace another’s thoughts, and signifies progression. “Yes but” is an argument, a conversation killer that squelches new ideas and creates immediate tension.
In your business, “yes, but” is a threat to innovation. If you hear yourself saying it often at staff meetings or in brainstorming situations, stop and ask yourself whether it’s symptomatic of stagnation in your business . . . or burnout as an entrepreneur.
Product innovation and industry revolutions are the result of finding the “and.” Of taking two existing, unrelated ideas and fusing them to solve a problem or create a product that takes consumers by storm. For example, Sony combined a small tape player and a small pair of headphones—a connection no one else had made–and the Walkman was born. More recently, Steve Jobs took an MP3 player and combined it with an online shopping cart for music. You’re probably carrying the rest of the story in your pocket or purse right now.
Finding the “and” in group situations like board meetings, with customers, and with your staff can go a long ways toward achieving compromise that allows you to move forward. In the room of each of our national NAWBO board meetings is a poster with a list of reminders designed to ensure a positive board culture. One of the principles listed is “Find the ‘And.’” When we disagree and get stuck on an issue, we strive to find something in each of our arguments that we can agree on, and then we build from there. It gets us off dead center. Try it in your own business when the tension gets thick during discussions. (And by the way, it’s something our Congressional leaders should try too.) Finding the “and” forces us to work with others and move forward to a positive solution that in many cases is even better than the original positions promoted by the individuals involved.
Finding the “and” is a way of thinking that opens up your mind, helps you see new possibilities, and creates new opportunities. Learn to find the “and.” And let there be no buts about it.