A few weeks back, a colleague came to me with an idea.

As the CEO of Wild Creations, I hear countless ideas and concept for new products and receive numerous solicitations for new services. Like most of the ideas I see throughout the day, my colleague’s  wasn’t a concept that fit into our business plan or strategy, so I did what I had done so often before: I dismissed it with a quick, nonchalant “no.” Relentless, my colleague made one simple plea.

Don’t say “no” … just yet.

I paused and considered this, and I realized that he asked in a tone implying that he knew ahead of time I was going to say “no.”  Had I become that guy … a “no” guy?  The fact was that I had become inclined to say “no” to everything because I was so preoccupied and busy at the time.  I didn’t have time to take on a new idea.

I had started to use “no” as a defense mechanism.

So, I agreed to not say “no,” and we sat and discussed the merits of this off-strategy idea.  As we chatted, the conversation shifted back and forth, and we began generating new ideas from his original until we found ourselves with a viable and actually quite exciting direction. The whole process was not just fruitful; it was refreshing.

From that point on, we decided that we would no longer say “no” to anything … at least not right away.

Now, a manager’s responsibility is to lead and keep his or her team focused on the business’s vision and strategy. Often, this requires sifting through tens, hundreds and even thousands of ideas and suggestions throughout the day. It can become overwhelming, especially in light of everyday responsibilities.

Saying “no” becomes a very easy default. It’s also a dangerous one.

I am not advocating that you say “yes” to everything. In fact, I follow closely one the credos of Apple founder Steve Jobs: “Say no to 1,000 things.”  Like him, I believe that too many projects will dilute the focus of your best people. These days, companies need more focus, not more distractions.

With that said, we all need to understand that ideas are good, regardless of how bad they are. The process of generating ideas is one of the most crucial functions of a business, and the word “no” can quickly derail the entire creative process. To be a better business leader, we need to understand that coming up with a great idea has less to do with the quality of your ideas than your ability to weed through the bad ones.

Have you had a similar experience?  Please share with others below.