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What Plussing Is-And How to Use It as a Lever for Innovation Make brainstorming a more solution-oriented process with this technique.


If you've ever been in a meeting dominated by the loudest voices in the room, or a brainstorming session that seemed to go nowhere, you know how frustrating it can be. But have you also considered the cost to your company in terms of good, innovative ideas? Recently, a new technique has emerged in collaboration—a solution called "plussing."

It's a deceptively simple idea, notes Andy Cleff, a software project manager for a Philadelphia-based technology company who put plussing in play about six months ago. "Essentially," he says, "it boils down to a single notion: any critique must also be accompanied with a constructive suggestion."

Here are a few ways that you can implement this simple technique to make your company more collaborative, energized and innovative.

  • Say "yes, and." At the heart of plussing is a guideline familiar to improv troupes known as "Yes, And." Improvisational actors keep their story rolling by accepting what the other person has created ("Yes") and then adding something to it ("And"). This is important for a number of reasons. First, nothing stops a conversation short like a flat-out "No." And second, it forces participants to give credence to one anothers' ideas, while also building upon them. This inevitably leads to a deeper discussion of each idea. "The collaborative energy is just so much better," says Cleff. "People aren't afraid to throw an idea out there when they know it's not going to get shot full of holes; it's going to be added onto. The whole group dynamic is so different."
  • Work it into your routine. Consider using methodologies such as agile, in which projects are developed in a cyclical, iterative fashion, step by step, rather than planned out in full. In the case of agile, plussing doesn't change how you work as much as it changes how you communicate. For that reason, Cleff considers it an add-on skill that a team can use to foster greater collaboration and innovation.
  • Emphasize respect. A key component of plussing is respect for one's collaborators, even those who are not particularly skilled at presenting and defending their ideas. And because it requires adding on to a previous idea, it encourages active listening. The end result will certainly not incorporate every idea on the table, but by taking a structured approach you can be far more confident that everyone in the room will have contributed to the solution.
  • Make it a rule. Plussing may be easy to explain, but it can be difficult to integrate into a competitive work environment. The best way to make plussing effective is to make it mandatory. This requires discipline on the part of leaders, as well as good behavior modeling for the team. It may require a more active moderating role as well, but when team members realize how effective plussing can be, it should become second nature.

Cleff, for one, is sold on the idea. In looking for a way to help the individuals on his team collaborate better, he says, "The concept of plussing just struck a chord. And implementing it was as simple as saying, "Hey, guys, I want you to try something different.' The teams tried it, and it led to a subtle but powerful change."

Lincoln MKC: Working With You on the Road

Think of the Lincoln MKC as a helpful collaborator when you're behind the wheel. Its approach detection with welcome mat, which brightens exterior lighting once you're up to eight feet away, assists with ease of entry after dark. The Lincoln MKC's available adaptive cruise control (ACC) operates just like normal cruise control, but with one exception: its sensors can detect traffic slowing ahead and slow your car to maintain the distance you've set. When traffic has cleared, your car resumes the preset speed. Furthermore, available collision warning with brake support, included with ACC, can alert you if it senses a potential collision with the car in front of you. The Lincoln MKC helps provide a confident driving experience.*

*Driver-assist features are supplemental and do not replace the driver's attention, judgment and need to control the vehicle.

Learn more about the Lincoln MKC here.

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