It’s ok to say yes, sometimes

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col Christopher Maddox
  • Commander, 58th Airlift Squadron
Have you ever been in a meeting where a new idea or process is proposed, only to be immediately dismissed as impractical or impossible? All too often, someone in the room rolls their eyes and starts listing the reasons that the idea will fail before it's even given a chance to see the light of day.

I have witnessed a few of these exchanges recently, which made me start to wonder why so many of us are dismissive of new ideas. Granted, some new ideas are better than others, but the "nay-saying" usually begins before the proposal is even finished. Why are so many of us unwilling to attach our names or reputations to a new concept? Is it fear of failure? Is it a Pavlovian response to a lifetime of fighting Air Force bureaucracy? The answers to these questions could be debated for hours, but all of these questions lead to a much larger question: does the Air Force encourage and reward innovation?

As we look over the horizon at the budget outlook for the next few years, it becomes painfully obvious that our pool of resources will be stretched thin for the foreseeable future. We may be forced to execute our mission with fewer personnel, fewer supporting contracts, and less money. In order to navigate these choppy waters while still serving the needs of the nation, we must be willing to consider new or unique ideas that will make us more efficient and effective in our mission accomplishment. Leaders at all levels must be willing to take chances and let new ideas transition from concept to reality.

I fully believe that good ideas, properly researched and justified, will usually see the light of day. Getting policies changed or new programs in place requires hard work and persistence by the idea's proponent. All too often, ideas are presented, but individuals are unwilling to put forth the due diligence required to make their ideas come to life. Why should your boss invest time and energy in a new program or policy if the champion of the concept is unwilling to do so? If you present an idea, but are unwilling to invest your own time in making it a reality, then its chances of success are very small.

At the same time, leaders at all levels must be willing to honestly assess the viability of new ideas and not dismiss them with comments like, "Headquarters will never approve that." Leaders must be open-minded and ensure all members of their organization are encouraged to find more effective ways to accomplish the mission. They must ensure their organization evaluates each idea on its merits while rewarding those that are willing to take a chance on well thought out concepts.

Securing our future in the face of falling budgets and increasing requirements will require individuals and leaders to find new solutions to old problems. Undoubtedly, some of these ideas may fail, but we must be willing to consider all proposals on their merits and resist the temptation to dismiss an idea before it can be properly evaluated. Ideas can originate from many different places and in many different forms, but if we don't say yes to a few of them, then we are doing our organizations and our Airmen a disservice.