20 Phrases That Kill Ideas and Innovation

20 Phrases That Kill Ideas and InnovationWhen it comes to innovation and sharing our creative ideas at work, we all know to be wary of negative bosses and co-workers who shoot down every idea. These people can be a deterrent to change and innovation, but if we’re persistent we learn how to go around them to get things done.

The real people to be wary of are the ones who seem like they’re open to new ideas, but always have some reason the idea won’t work or shouldn’t be implemented yet. They are masters of “killer phrases” that masquerade as knowledge or experience, but many times are not justified and simply stand in the way of progress.

Look out for killer phrases that start with “That’s a good idea, but…”

  1. It’s against company policy
  2. It’s not practical
  3. It’s not necessary
  4. We don’t have the resources
  5. It will cost too much
  6. We’ve never done it that way
  7. Our customers (or vendors) won’t like it
  8. It needs more study
  9. It’s not part of your job
  10. Let’s make a survey first
  11. Let’s sit on it for a while
  12. That’s not our problem
  13. The boss won’t go for it
  14. The old timers won’t use it
  15. It’s too hard to administer
  16. Why hasn’t someone else suggested it before?
  17. Let’s form a committee
  18. We should wait until the economy improves
  19. Who else has tried it?
  20. Is it best practice?

When you are hit with one of these killer phrases, see if you can get to the bottom of it. Is the person simply afraid of change, or do they have data to back up their objection? Has something similar been tried in the past? If so, why did it fail?

In some cases, it might be the idea itself really is too ambitious or costly or outrageous (not a bad thing, by any means). Instead of taking no for an answer, work to “decompose” the idea into smaller parts. Just as an egg has a shell, a membrane, a white part and a yolk, most ideas have layers upon layers of creativity that can be redesigned, repurposed, reshaped, repackaged, reassembled or reconstructed into a viable idea that can be acted on.

When you know how to decompose an idea into its useful parts, you have a powerful defense against killer phrases and the people who wield them.

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Kamal HassanKamal Hassan is President and CEO of Innovation 360 Institute, and is responsible for leading the company’s global operations and customer acquisition.

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Kamal Hassan




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No Comments

  1. Mitch Ditkoff on July 2, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Yes, indeed. I see these all the time — everywhere I go. Here’s a related phenomenon https://tinyurl.com/mxmpjb

    And your bit about “decomposing an idea” reminds me of an old joke: “What is Mozart doing these days? Decomposing.”

  2. Amy Sundberg on July 2, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I particularly dislike #6. It seems to shut down all possibility of discussion just because a new idea has been introduced.

    Your thought about “decomposing” ideas is a very helpful one, and I think would also encourage both collaboration and compromise.

  3. Floriano on July 3, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I’m adding the followings:
    #Don’t you think we’ve never thought something like that before?
    or in other words
    #Yes, good idea but we have already thought something like that in the past.

    I particulary like #19 and #20.


  4. Arthur on July 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    I recently was contacted by BP about a possible solution I submitted to collecting crude oil from their blow out in the Gulf. It seems that they felt that I wasn’t qualified to even have an opinion about the problem because I didn’t work in the industry. But I did contact a Texas company that is now going to use my Air Curtain idea to bring the crude to the surface where it can be easily skimmed as a froth. The froth is then picked up by a contineous floating fabric belt that feeds around a anchored wheel at one end along a beach and is wrung out betwee rollers at the far end. The water content of the collected hydrocarbons appears to be less than 10%. I wasn’t looking to get rich off of this idea anyway. I only wanted to help.

  5. jabur on July 5, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I would like to add something:

    A real TEAM WORK kills many of these phrases. Creating or keeping focus will always deliver executable solutions.

  6. Evert Martens on July 19, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Many of the above stated phrases seem really familiar to me…

    Whenever a solution is proposed to a client company, it could be helpfull to add phrases like:

    – Similar solutions are already being used in other departments in your organization.
    – You biggest competitor uses a similar solution and has the following results …
    – This type of solutions is typically used by entrepreneurs, like …

    The comparison should of course be realistic and truth (similar cases can always be found). Using the above stated phrases/excuses will get harder in this situation because they imply disqualification of the speaker, his department or organization.

  7. Dan on July 21, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    What would be the 20 one-liners that would counter these statements? and hopefully lead to a ‘resurrection’ of the idea and more open discussion??

  8. Carrie on July 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Your article is helpful and inspiring.

    Small suggestion: I hope you will not be offended if I suggest that you may wish to change the word “decompose” to “deconstruct.” The latter word actually fits the context of what you are conveying. I know the two are sometimes used interchangeably; but “decompose” typically refers to something organic rotting; so even if it is used in a more logical fashion (ie. to reverse-construct), that is actually a more creative interpretation to the word’s main definition. “Deconstruct” immediately encompasses that which you aim to convey, without the possibility of bringing to reader’s minds the strong and unwanted meanings of the other word.

    I hope my suggestion is not offensive, for it is well meant. I still think your article is brilliant and helpful. Companies die from a failure to generate fresh vision and new direction. Thank you for both highlighting job inspiration-killers, and putting it all in perspective so we can persevere with ingenuity!

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