Say Yes

by Jean Tower

As a school CTO, it is almost always safer and easier to say, “no.” A small no can fly under the radar much more easily than a big YES. The big yes can be, “Yes! Let’s explore that new, untried social networking site to communicate with students.” The quiet no would be, “No, sorry, that’s not allowed by our policy.”

Yes is the more daring answer. Yes says you endorse risk-taking, exploring, and advancing innovation. Yes says you’re willing to clear the path. Yes doesn’t imply you were unaware of the limits of policy or infrastructure or culture, but it means you are willing to take on the obstacles and try to make room for this innovation. Yes commits you to work – to partner with someone who wants to try something new. No says you are more committed to the status quo than to innovative uses of technology.

I recently read Tina Fey’s, Bossy Pants, (great read, by the way, I recommend it!) and in it, she explains that she learned so much from doing improv that it changed her world view. The one rule in improv is to always say yes. Whatever your improv partner brings to the scene, you say yes and run with it. Furthermore you take it even further – the road to an even better improv is to respond yes, and…  I really enjoyed this section of the book but thought, “My work isn’t improv. This is interesting, but ‘does not apply’ to my job.”

But here’s the thing – life is improvisation. You don’t get a script for life or for your job. We can use the yes rule in our jobs. At school CTOs we nurture risk-taking and change; we are change agents; we push people to escape gravity and launch into new orbits. Well, one way we can model that in our own practice is to embrace the “say yes” philosophy.

Yes, and you can use Twitter to share homework assignments, too.

Yes, and let’s figure out how to deploy iPads with an image.

Yes, and I will work with you on your new blog.

Yes, and I don’t know how we can do that yet, but I will collaborate with you get a pilot started.

Yes, and what’s the next idea?

Say yes.

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