The Zen leadership approach

by Cameron Edmond19 Nov 2013

Picking holes in an employee’s suggestion is easy, but if you want your company and staff to develop and grow, you need to foster innovation instead of killing it off.

Canadian Tony Tjan, now chief executive of Boston venture capital firm Cue Ball, learned from a mentor to focus on optimism first.

“[Jay Chiat, founder of Chiat/Day ad agency] had this amazing ability to think of every reason why an idea might work before criticising it and thinking why it might not work,” Tjan told the New York Times. “When you’re a mentor, you’ve got to realise that people are often sharing their dreams, and I think it’s human nature to be a critic.”

The older and more experienced people get, the easier it is to “impose your mental framework and your lessons”, Tjan said.

To that end he has developed a rule to hearing new ideas: wait 24 seconds before you criticize it.

“If you can do that, wait 24 minutes. Then if you become a Zen master of optimism, you could wait a day, and spend that time thinking about why something actually might work.”

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