Recently a business consultant scheduled a call with a colleague and me to discuss an initiative we have been working on. During the call, the consultant belittled everything we were doing, and spent a half hour telling us—with great vigor and in great detail—what was wrong with what we were doing. It was disheartening, especially because I liked the direction we were taking, and I know the consultant wanted to see the initiative to succeed.

I started to question if we were terribly off base, and then questioned if the consultant even knew what he was talking about. The worst part was, the leader of the initiative wasn’t even on the call and so he couldn’t defend where we were going. As we listened, I could feel my colleague and myself getting defensive and shutting down. 

As I noticed our reaction, it struck me that the consultant was not using Forness® thinking—and that was the problem! 

With this realization in mind, I told the consultant, “We need to have this call again with the initiative leader present. And, you need to practice Forness® thinking.” I explained how it works: When delivering feedback, start with what you are “for.” Then, take all of the criticism and say what you wish for to improve the initiative. I warned him that if he did not do this, the initiative owner would shut down—and probably discount everything he had to say, forever. The consultant listened, and said he would review Forness® thinking before our next conversation.

At the time of the next call, I braced myself for disaster. To my surprise, it was like night and day. Not only did the consultant share the many things he thought we were doing right—something that had been completely missing from the previous conversation—but we were able to receive his feedback and discuss it, press him for more information, and begin to problem solve. This time, the consultant’s feedback was appreciated and understood, and will wind up helping the initiative.

I’ve seen Forness® thinking in action in sessions with clients many times. We preach it, we teach it, and we practice it. Even so, this experience made me even more of a true believer. And, when I suggested the consultant use Forness® thinking with other clients, he admitted that he’s a believer too.

©2012 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Beth Storz

Beth Storz is President and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go. She co-authored the book, "Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation™ Approach Drives Your Company Forward." Beth has been a guest on many innovation podcasts and her work has been featured in media outlets such as HuffPost and Fortune. Beth holds a BS in Business Management from Cornell University and a MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and has worked in brand management at some of the premier consumer packaged goods companies—including Unilever, Kraft and Nabisco. Since joining Ideas To Go, Beth has established herself as a leader in the Innovation landscape and designed and facilitated projects for hundreds of companies—from CPG to financial services to pharmaceuticals.