It Could Be Good...

There is a way to look at life and all its challenges. “It could be good” can be your first thought and your first verbal response. Here is how it changes everything.

Positive Outlook in Management

“You would be better off doing asset management, rather than deficit management,” I was told while pointing out a few flaws in a proposed research program. Focusing on the flaws depresses the team, sucks the wind out of the room, and leaves the impression that nothing is ever good enough.

The impulse has deep roots in many of us. We have grown up to achieve more than was expected of us, to push the limits, and to contribute to the world. We came to believe that by rejecting anything that appears (at least at first) to be mediocre, we would select for the best outcomes—and certainly not stain ourselves with a second best.

So those of us brought up with critical minds (and worse, critical tongues) see problems first and feel compelled to point them out. We genuinely want to fix them, to motivate the team to do better, to not accept anything less than great, to excel, to push the envelope. We honestly believe that by sharing the flaws we’ve observed, we are helping the other person, and strengthening the proposal. But the truth is, we hold progress back when we point out the weakness first.   

That incessant drive leaves us always in a rush and often alone. There is never enough time. There is always so much more to be done. If we pause for self-reflection, yoga, or meditation, it is only to be able to perform better once we open our eyes and let fly our opinions. We miss the part of team building that requires patience, encouragement, humbleness, and sensitivity.

Yet if the first response in our mind and from our tongue is, “It could be good…,” the conversation opens. A brainstorm format begins, in which all ideas are initially welcome and valid. People are then swept up in the engagement, rather than being alienated by criticism. As in the Improv world—where “Yes, and…” keeps the conversation going—“It could be good…” opens the door to critical thinking without criticism. 

So, the next time a proposal is made to you, a suggestion offered, or even a meal served, make your first response “ICBG” it could be good — and then find out. Your team (and friends) will love you for it, and you will find yourself managing assets—rather than accelerating deficits. 

Medically authored by
Kevin R. Stone, MD
Orthopaedic surgeon, clinician, scientist, inventor, and founder of multiple companies. Dr. Stone was trained at Harvard University in internal medicine and orthopaedic surgery and at Stanford University in general surgery.