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The 10% Rule
How to encourage your team’s creativity and collaboration
When it comes to building a strong team, there are two principles that are undeniable: trust is essential, and criticism is destructive. This is especially true when leading your team in the important exercise of brainstorming. Trust is rooted in the psychological safety of knowing you can freely express your opinions and they will at least be heard and respected. And criticism should always come in the form of building the other person up while considering the ideas they propose.
Two years ago I wrote about the important team-building technique called, “Yes, and…” In the midst of brainstorming, it’s easy to start judging colleagues by picking apart their ideas, which then shuts down creativity. Who wants to be vulnerable and think outside the box if they’re immediately judged for it? So instead of saying, “No, but…” start expanding on ideas by saying, “Yes, and…”
This technique acknowledges the value of what is shared by another person, even if you have a different point of view. Instead of “Yeah, but…” which indicates disagreement and dismissal of other perspectives, “Yes, and…” opens up the opportunity for greater collaboration and stronger co-creation. It’s a statement that builds upon ideas instead of tearing them down. This is especially important if you want to build trust with your team and foster an environment of building each other up.
I recently learned another technique from Positive Intelligence author Shirzad Chamine that further enhances “Yes, and…” It’s called “The 10% Rule.” Even if you don’t agree with a colleague’s idea or perspective, we can assume the other person is at least 10% right, or their idea has at least 10% wisdom we can draw from. This is a powerful technique for better brainstorming sessions and fostering more team harmony.
The beauty of The 10% Rule is that in order to encourage your teammate, you don’t have to be dishonest and say, “I love your idea!” You can instead say, “What I like about that idea is…” This is honest; anyone can find something to value in another idea, even if they don’t agree with it completely. It boosts the confidence of your colleague and helps you look for the gem in any idea that’s offered, no matter how crazy it initially seems.
Here’s an example:
Your team is brainstorming ideas for the company booth at an upcoming major industry conference. One colleague shares the idea of giving away a free full-size product to every person who stops by the booth.
You may believe that the idea is not feasible because it will cost the company too much money. So you instead look for the 10% of the idea that you like: “What I like about your idea is your desire to help potential customers try our product so they will buy it. What if we give away sample size products instead of full-size and then do a raffle for 10 full-size products?”
In this example, you found the 10% of the idea that was inspiring: helping customers try the product. Then you built on the idea with your own. If you had shot down your colleague’s idea right away, you wouldn’t have seen the opportunity of creating sample size products and you would have discouraged your colleague from further sharing ideas that could contain that 10% brilliance for you to build on.
The key to making “Yes, and…” and The 10% Rule work well for your team is demonstrating and encouraging deep listening. When we actively listen to others, we’re in the moment with them. Judgement and criticism won’t undermine collaboration when we’re focused on listening for the 10% wisdom in the moment.
In your next brainstorm meeting, consider using “Yes, and…” and The 10% Rule. Let ideas build on each other spontaneously. Encourage collaboration through deep listening and looking for the 10% brilliance of every idea that’s offered, no matter how impractical. Your team will grow closer, you’ll create more innovative ideas, and you’ll have more fun together.
Work happy. Live happy. BE happy.
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The way we work and build teams is rapidly changing. Leaders often feel unprepared to navigate the transition. As a conscious leadership coach, consultant and communicator, Meredith helps leaders and their teams create new ways of working and relating so they can prepare for the future by consciously co-creating it.
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