Two For Every One

10 Mar

“Criticizes the ideas of others without ever offering an idea or solution of his own.  Drains the room of energy.  Not a forward thinker.”

That was me.  No wonder my colleagues left me out of group lunches.


But after reading Imagine by Jonah Lehrer, all of that has changed.  In his book, Lehrer describes “plussing,” the act of  bringing a new idea or tweak to the table after you criticize someone else’s idea.  Your idea, “the plus,” softens the criticism and provides a new or altered plan.  I’ve taken plussing a step further: I now hold myself accountable to the two for every one rule.

It works like this.  Every time I criticize a co-worker’s idea, I have to offer two ideas of my own.  The ideas can be tweaks on the plan I’m criticizing or entirely new solutions.

Why is the two for every one rule game-changing?

1)      It leads to idea generation.  When a plan is shot-down without any new ideas surfacing, everyone involved leaves depressed.  The two for every one rule guarantees that when an idea is axed, new ideas are generated.

2)      It creates a team atmosphere by forcing everyone to try to find a solution.  We can no longer criticize a plan and then remain aloof, leaving the work of finding a solution to others.  When we’re forced to offer two new ideas for every criticism, we’re committed to trying  to solve the problem, not just point it out.

3)      It puts everyone on the chopping block.  By forcing everyone to offer their own ideas, it opens up everyone to criticism and critique.  When everyone is exposed, no one person feels ganged up on.


It’s much easier to point out flaws in the ideas of others than come up with your own plans, which makes following this rule is extremely hard.   But I’m slowly but surely implementing the two for every one rule across my life.

The early results: I’m an idea-generator like never before, colleagues ask for my opinion more often because I offer compelling and constructive feedback, and people seem genuinely happy to see me at meetings. 



4 Responses to “Two For Every One”

  1. michaellangford2012 March 13, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    Jonah Lehrer may have offered a few good ideas. Hey, maybe they were even his ideas! Unfortunately, Jonah’s credibility is at an all-time low at the moment, and it appears that he fully deserves the comeuppance.

    • johnkresse March 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it. I haven’t read any other Lehrer books, but was aware of the charges of plagiarism against him. I read this piece that references those charges prior to my new post:

      In Imagine, Lehrer describes encountering the idea of “plussing” in the context of researching Pixar, so he certainly doesn’t take credit for the idea. Perhaps I should have mentioned that in my post!

      • michaellangford2012 March 13, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

        I have skimmed, more than read Jonah Lehrer’s books. Not sure they fully deserve close reading. I have read a lot of John McPhee’s books. McPhee was also a writer for the New Yorker, and has written a lot of non-fiction. You might try him on by way of comparison.


  1. The Bad Idea Revolution | Biz Bits - March 21, 2013

    […]  Use the two for every one rule to come prepared with […]

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