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A plague of positivity-can-do has swept across the English speaking world, silently infecting office cultures, leaving employees vulnerable and unprepared for when things go wrong. Not everyone if affected, Pocado (positive can do, get it?), as I have come to call it, seems to lodge most easily in the large offices of multinationals, but it is spreading.

The effects of Pocado are easy to recognise. The main one is that it leads to an office culture where it is taboo to talk about what could go wrong. New ideas are floated, mission statements are written, and entire strategies launched and nobody dares say “Hang on a minute…”. Caution is frowned upon and anyone who questions the momentum-driven buy-in is accused of negativity. Sadly, there is no cure.

Cultures will become more resistant and eventually this fad will wane, but it’ll take time. While we are waiting, there are a few simple steps to hasten the process along:

  • Start a counter-culture of interested enquiry: Each time the group is charging ahead with an untested idea ask Colombo-style questions to get them to test the logic of their assumptions.
  • Wear a badge: Get some brightly coloured badges made that say “No Pocando”, dare to be different and ask searching questions to test the logic of the speaker’s position, “Is there anything that could go wrong?”
  • Declare a No Pocado day: Once a week, give the negativists the freedom to air their doubts and discuss them without fear of attack.
  • Dare to be different: Ask yourself “What is the main goal here? Is there another way to achieve it?” (Beware of this last one, it might be like pulling the pin out of a grenade, because hype doesn’t do goals very well.)

Solution Focused thinkers have been doing this for years (I mean real SF thinkers who understand the concept, not the Pococdo people who have just picked up the ‘solution-focused’ buzzword). I wrote a section on asking questions in my last book, and a blog post on honouring pessimism back in 2009, as well.

Pocado is a serious threat to individual creativity and rational thought. It leads to vanilla flavoured conformity and more-of-the-same. Of course, many people like vanilla, but if you are not one of them it might be time to wake up your taste buds!

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