Where have all the optimists gone?
Realists and pragmatists dominate today's business world -- the grounded individuals that set attainable goals, check their emotions at the door and embrace a healthy amount of skepticism. Their skills sets are invaluable and they allow your business to carry on at a steady rate.
But skepticism leaves many businesses without an appetite for adventure and in the rut of status quo. Innovation rarely happens when companies stick to the status quo and skeptics find themselves uneasy around risky gambles.
This is where optimists can help balance the scales.
Too often perceived as idealistic or naive, optimism helps us take into account the alternative and inspiring point-of-views typically shot down in the business world. Where failure is feared and "I told you so's" haunt us, optimism reminds us that risk has a powerful counterpart -- reward.
Reward is the "what if things go right" scenario that we too often ignore. It brings balance to our decision-making. No matter if it's thick or paper thin, there is a silver lining, a hidden reward, in every situation we face. By embracing optimism, we bring to life a forgotten story that has been hidden from us for too long: the best case scenario.
Here are a few reasons why finding your silver lining can help you bring more to the boardroom:
Optimism Uncovers Opportunity
People enjoy playing devil's advocate, and in business, pointing out the potential risks and flaws of a project or plan is applauded. While this approach can be helpful when surveying the landscape of possible outcomes, it can actually push us to avoid risk altogether instead of sparking conversation around how to better understand risk.
Risk shouldn't be snuffed. Instead, it should be navigated. Some of the best opportunities can be found shrouded in a cloud of risk and a little optimism can train us to embrace that.
Optimists find themselves in situations that others are too skittish to seize. Where others see risk, they see reward. However, optimism should not blind you to the dangerous realities of risk. There are plenty of others who will gladly point out the reasons why a project or plan may go terribly wrong.
While it's important to listen to the downsides, it's up to the optimist to point out why a plan may go unbelievably right. It isn't just a positive outlook, it's an understanding that opportunity sometimes outweighs risk.
Unfortunately, the typical business plan or project outline only accounts for the expected (average) outcome, as well as the unexpected (below average) outcome. Very rarely will you see the unexpected (above average) scenario accounted for. We're so good at shooting down our own ideas and plans that we forget to believe in them in the first place. The "what can go really wrong" will easily sway a decision if the "what can go really right" is never considered.
For your next big decision on project undertaking, outline your "best case scenario" with as much detail and energy as you would your "worst case scenario." This isn't to say that your above-expectations prediction should now become your realistic outcome. Instead, a "best case scenario" creates a more balanced view when forming decisions (forming a bell-curve-like distribution).
You may find that an opportunity looks a lot more attractive when you offset the presence of risk with the opportunity for reward.
Optimism Breeds Positivity
If you personally introduce optimistic behavior and tactics into the workplace, chances are you won't have to wait long to notice their effects. A more optimistic approach to your company's business practices unchains your employees from the baggage that keeps them from making riskier decisions.
Be optimistic so that your employees don't fear failure or rejection. Once they accept that risk is, in fact, a function of success, they will feel open to exploring best case scenarios. A culture that embraces optimism is critical to bringing out people's best and most innovative ideas.
An easy way to start injecting optimism into an organization is to bring more power to the word "yes." May sound silly (there have even been movies built around saying "Yes" more), but saying yes is important to continuing a conversation, exploring ideas further and opening your company up to new opportunities.
Too frequently we shoot down what we are unfamiliar with and stay the course in an attempt to seem sensible and dependable. However, think about how many new opportunities you've been introduced to by remaining open to an idea. It's not coincidental. Yes keeps us moving forward. Yes is the silver living that can bring us closer to our goals.