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strong opinions

What Color Are Your Thoughts?………………………. by Evelyn Clark, The Corporate Storyteller

CAUTION: Read this article ONLY if you want to increase your income, sell your clients on your services, and keep your clients happy. If you’d like to be more effective in achieving such goals, you may need to change the color of your thoughts!

Green Light® thinking, a term coined by author and Seattle-based creativity consultant Marilyn Schoeman, “is putting your foot on the gas and moving forward; it implies you’re already in motion, and usually leads to a win-win outcome,” as she explains it. “The opposite approach to problem-solving is Red Light thinking, which is putting on the brakes, screeching to a halt, and raising doubt that there will ever be motion. Nobody wins; nothing is accomplished.

“In today’s world, Red Light thinkers tend to disappear fast,” says Schoeman, an active member and former president of the American Creativity Association. “Red Light thinking is no longer a viable option; innovative thinking, negotiating and team building are key routes to success.”

To illustrate how to apply Green Light thinking to running a design business, for example, let’s say you’re preparing for a client presentation. Wouldn’t you like to be better prepared to overcome—rather than ignore—client objections to the designs you offer? Wouldn’t you like to know how to be more effective with clients who have strong opinions that you know won’t work?

As described in Schoeman’s new book, GO! How to Think, Speak and ACT to Make Good Things Happen, here are some questions a Green Light thinker would ask when preparing for a client presentation:

  • Why is the recommended design a good idea?
  • What’s my plan to show the client why it’s a good idea?
  • What do I expect the objections to be, and how can I head them off at the pass?

If you think of Green Light thinking as a game—and objections as an invitation to play the game—situations that used to be frustrating will actually be fun (most of the time!).

“For example, when a client says a design is too risky, it’s probably because it’s new and unknown. You need to show them symbols or concepts they’re familiar with that might have seemed risky at the outset but in fact were successful,” Schoeman says. “Also, consider presenting three designs in descending order of riskiness. Because the first one you show is really ‘way out’ and the second less so, by the time the client sees the third one, it’s likely to feel safe even though, by itself, it may be out on the edge.

“Another way to address or accommodate client concerns is to brainstorm new ways to approach a presentation,” Schoeman says. “Ask yourself as many creative questions as you can think of, such as, How could I change the sequence of presentation? Or switch the rationale? (The reason you like it is not what’s important, but rather, why will the client like it?)

“How long will the idea be useful? How can I make it memorable? How can I make it huggable? How can I hook the emotions and put the client into the environment as though it’s already been adopted and been effective?

“Consider ‘futuring’ the idea; start with one and then move to the next adaptation; demonstrate how the approach will be useful for a long time and will be durable,” Schoeman recommends.

You can implement this approach on your own, and there also are tools on the market that will help you generate a nearly endless list of questions and options. Schoeman’s problem-solving product, The Idea Activator BOFF-O!® (Brain On Fast Forward), has generated solutions to an array of challenges faced by a range of organizations. BOFF-O triggers ideas/questions such as the following:

  • How can I promote a global view or a global application?
  • What will “satisfice”? (What is sufficient and also satisfactory?)
  • How do you stop before refining too much or becoming too costly?

(A consideration in “value engineering.”)

  • How can I tell the corporate story through this idea?
  • How does this address issues of diversity and age?
  • How can we add mystery? whimsy? surprise?

Schoeman says the key is to think about various ideas and determine whether it fits or, in a particular case, doesn’t apply. “Green Light thinking first gives you confidence and courage, and then a strategy—a style of thinking—so that you’re better prepared, more flexible, more versatile, and more creative in every aspect of business.”

And, she points out, “The same style of thinking can be applied to your entire life. My wish for you is this: As you pursue your passions, may you see Green Light signals all the way!”


Evelyn Clark, The Corporate Storyteller, has helped thousands of executives, top-flight sales leaders and savvy marketers to identify, create and deliver messages that stick in audiences’ minds. Author of Around the Corporate Campfire: How Great Leaders Use Stories to Inspire Success she is a keynote speaker and workshop leader who has worked with global leaders across North America, Europe and Asia. Visit her website is www.corpstory.com and call her at 1-425-827-3998.