Eight Things Not to Say When You Hear a New Idea

by Paul Sloane

Eight Things Not to Say When You Hear a New IdeaWhat do you say when you hear a fresh idea at work? Let’s suppose it is a suggestion for a new product or service. Here are some things not to say:

1. ‘That sounds interesting but..’ This is the most common way to give the idea a polite denial. What you say before the ‘but’ does not matter because what comes after undermines and criticises the notion. Now for some of the regular comments that come after the but.

2. ‘We tried if before.’ So what lessons did we learn? In any event the market has changed since we tried it and technologies are better and simpler. Don’t dismiss it because it is similar to something that was tried and did not work. Consider it afresh.

3. ‘What is the ROI?’ Focusing on a financial return is the wrong thing to do with a brand new idea. First we have to figure out if it meets a customer need. Don’t try to build a spread sheet to forecast the sales; build a prototype and see how people react. We can do the analysis a little later.

4. ‘It’s not in the budget.’ It is not in the plan but so what? If it is a good idea we should not let the budget we put together 12 months ago stop us from considering it.

5. ‘Department X will never agree to it.’ You could blame Sales, Finance, Technical, Marketing or some other group. It saves you having to think about the idea properly. If it is a radical idea it will run into opposition inside the organization at some stage but that is not a reason to kill it right now.

6. ‘It will undercut sales of Y.’ Y is one of your leading products so its revenues must be protected at all costs. Or maybe not. You should be prepared to cannibalise your products before someone else does.

7. ‘It is too difficult.’ Once again if the there is a clear customer need then difficulties are there to be overcome. Let’s consider different ways of doing it to surmount the obstacles.

8. ‘We don’t have time.’ This is a popular excuse. We are all terribly busy working flat out. But so are our competitors and everyone else. In the words of Peter Drucker, ‘We feed Today and starve the Tomorrow.’ If it is a good idea then we must find time to explore it. We should change priorities to include innovation.

What should you say when you hear a novel suggestion. Ask a question. ‘How would it work?’ ‘Who would need it?’ ‘How could we do it?’ Listen and build on the idea. Maybe it will be rejected but give it a fair hearing first. Explore the possibilities… and don’t kill it immediately with one of the statements above.

What kinds of objections and comments have you heard when new ideas are aired?

image credit: disciplineproject.com

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Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

No comments

  1. This is an important topic for most of the companies today. I have heard all the 8, and to be fair, now I have to think if I’ve given the same answers myself. Most probably yes.

    It should not be a separate department of innovations, or R&D, that comes up with ideas. To have an idea bank and most of all, to put teams to digest its content every now and then, can be done with little effort and money but it may bring lots of benefits in. Get rid of silos, and what you mention, listen, think and build on the ideas together, that counts. Very rarely any idea is ready when it occurs for the first time. Reality kills inventions, as all the 8 points are probably true, to some extent. And that’s how it remains if people in the organisation are not standing up for the new thinking and believe in something bigger than limits, money, risk of failure, envy etc.

  2. No words were truer. I have heard all of these before. It’s sad in a way to think where a company could go if they simply looked deeper with less initial judgement. I suppose it’s the business box they place themselves into that blocks true innovation from occuring in more companies.

  3. An interesting way of looking at a new idea and certainly giving any new and innovative idea a chance cannot be a bad idea. Those that just brush off new ideas are maybe afraid to think outside of the box, so to speak. Bosses are famous for blaming budgets or lack of funds for not giving a new idea a chance instead of investigating the idea and see if it will not only make sense but save the company funds if not make the company money.

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