Hell Yeah, Heck No and Engagement

Hell Yeah, Heck No and Engagement

By Jessica Delaney, Principal, Engagement + Communications

I was recently listening the Tim Ferris podcast with Derek Sivers and only later realized it originally aired in 2015. So, it’s not new, but maybe its application to engagement and process design thinking will be. Sivers is the guy who articulated the following: “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.” There are a few reasons why Sivers, and later Ferris, encourage people to apply this thinking to their life, but the biggest I can see is that when you say “yes” to lots of ho hum things, you are then “too busy” to say yes to the awesome things. Genuinely awesome, heart pounding things take more than an hour, so by being very judicious with your time you can invest it in the awesome things, not just the everyday things. Obviously, it goes without saying, the more you say “no thanks” to other peoples’ demands on your time, the more you can be in control of what you say “yes, please, right now, sign me up” to.

So, what does this have to do with engagement? There are organizations out there who engage because they must; they are legally required or mandated to do so. There are others who do it because they should. They take a risk management approach to decision making and/or want to invite innovation into their decision making. There are still others who engage because “they want to”. This is the place for Hell Yeah, Heck No thinking.

They might see value in doing engagement, want to build trust and social capital. So in these instances, they don’t have to engage, they want to. If you want to engage and truly open space to collaborate or empower stakeholders, you want to do something that hasn’t been done in your sector, town or community – then knock it out of the park. Heck Yeah we want to engage doesn’t equal a survey. Heck Yeah could mean a participatory design process where communities come together to co-create the process. If you want to build social capital and invite innovation then don’t fill it up with ho hum surveys where people have limited capacity to influence, engage and connect with each other. Because when you say yes to a whole bunch of “we want to engage”, then the big one, that amazing project which could be an incredible opportunity for innovation comes along and you are too busy. You have no capacity. You have no resources. Everyone has stakeholder fatigue. When engagement is a choice, choose wisely.

Here are my thoughts on the drivers for a Hell Yeah Response to engagement. Hell Yeah…

  • Community totally gets this and cares deeply and/or will live the outcome
  • We have no idea, so let’s get people involved
  • This is big and will only work if we build it together

If there’s no role for the public, no decision, or a decision maker not willing to be influenced, it’s not engagement. So save yourself from signing up for non-engaging engagement, so you can say Hell Yeah and have the time, money and social capital to do it when it really matters.

Podcast is available here.

Original blog post is here.