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Twenty Ways to Kill Good Ideas

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by Paul Hellman

Sure, you like new ideas in principle, but let’s get real. Suppose everyone in corporate America started spewing forth ideas on how to make things better. Before long, you would be drowning in a sea of suggestions, made by employees who aren’t nearly as smart as you—otherwise, they’d have your job (and don’t think for a minute that they don’t want it; in fact, that’s why they’re making all these silly suggestions in the first place).

What to do? Here are 20 ways to kill ideas before they kill you.

1. You’re probably wondering why I brainstormed this list, since brainstorming is the antithesis of everything this list stands for. You may also be wondering:
· Why 20 ways to kill ideas; why not just one or two?
· Why kill ideas; isn’t that a tad violent?
· Why kill ideas; why not a list of 20 ways to kill something really pesky, such as rodents?
Good for you. You’ve already mastered the first way to kill ideas: Ask the person with the idea a lot of questions…preferably stupid ones.
(I know I didn’t answer your questions yet, but that’s what happens when you start brainstorming.)

2. Here’s another thing that happens when you start brainstorming: People talk without really saying anything and you end up with a list that isn’t really a list.

3. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the original meaning of “brainstorm” in 1894 was, according to Webster’s, “a violent fit of insanity.” On the other hand, the word also meant “a bright idea.”
That’s the problem with creative techniques such as brainstorming—one person’s bright idea is another person’s violent fit of insanity.)
If someone says, “Let’s brainstorm!” he or she should be fired on the spot.

4. Or shot.

5. Don’t take this seriously. Don’t take any idea seriously. When someone presents an idea, you should laugh your head off. Just make it clear that you’re not laughing at what the person said; you’re laughing at the person.

6. Could we get back to item #4 for a second? Okay, you can’t really shoot someone literally, but the item still has possibilities. Since ideas tend to flourish in a relaxed, safe environment, do whatever you can to keep people rattled.

7. For example, begin your meetings with a few casual threats. Say, “Joe, you better start producing around here or you’re history, fella.” Make sure Joe is your top performer before you single him out.

8. Also, you can “shoot people down” at every opportunity. If somebody gets out of line and actually makes a viable suggestion, ask, “Are you kidding, or is this another one of your violent fits of insanity?”

9. Then there are the classic idea-killers: “We’ve tried that before,” “That would never work here,” or the simple yet elegant, “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

10. You can even use brainstorming to kill ideas. For example, you might say, “Sally, let’s come up with 35 things I hate about your idea, and 20 more things I dislike about you.”

11. I temporarily ran out of things to say.

12. That reminds me—use silence. When someone offers an idea, pretend that you didn’t hear it.

13. We’re entering the nonverbal realm now. Use your face and gestures to communicate your general disgust with whatever ding-a- ling idea has been proposed. Think of yourself as a pantomime artist and …

14. Roll your eyes, lower your eyes, or simply close them and sleep.

15. Pull your glasses off and throw them down on the table with a look of contempt.

16. Don’t forget to use your mouth—there’s a lot that can be done here nonverbally. For openers, try sighing, yawning or spitting.

17. Push our chair back from the table, possibly into the hall.

18. Hit your forehead. Hit someone else’s forehead.

19. Put your hands up to signal “stop.”

20. Whoops, it is time to stop. Maybe the best idea of all would be to outlaw techniques such as brainstorming. As you can see from this list, it’s really a useless way to get anything done.

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