Idea killers: ways to stop ideas

In the creative thinking course I taught at UW, we spent time listing idea killers, statements we’ve heard, or used, that stop ideas in their tracks. Chapter 4 of The Myths of Innovation covers them too, as it’s essential that any creative person familiarize themselves with these phrases and learn countermeasures to overcome them. No matter what kind of work you do, if you work with ideas you will hear these phrases often and they can unfairly kill your best ideas.

Mostly these phrases are used by people in power to dismiss a new idea quickly without bothering to think. These phrases require no thought to say. They often hold little water when considered, as “We tried that already” doesn’t mean that trying it again, today, with everything that has been learned, won’t have a better outcome. mean.

Unlike a real discussion, which might over a path forward (e.g if you can overcome x, y and z we’ll consider it) idea killers are lazy dead ends. There are often political reasons people kill ideas and these phrases help those ambitions.

Idea Killers

  • We don’t do that here
  • We tried that already
  • That never works
  • Not in our budget
  • Not an interesting problem
  • We don’t have time
  • Execs will never go for it
  • Out of scope
  • Too “blue sky”
  • It won’t make enough money
  • It’s too hard to build
  • That isn’t what people want
  • Sarcastic / Snarky
    • What are you on?
    • Can we get someone with a brain in here?
    • Would you like a pony?
    • You’re fired
    • We will actively work against you
    • (Laughter)
    • This train is on fire
    • What are you on?
    • Can we get someone with a brain in here?
    • No response at all

What are others you’ve heard? (Also see Idea Helpers, a positive spin on the same theme)

107 Responses to “Idea killers: ways to stop ideas”



  2. ren

    Not realistic.
    Too much psychology.
    Too little psychology.
    We need to think constructively!
    Stop talking about the Sopranos! :)

  3. Joen

    In a past life I heard a frightening amount of these. But also, if I might augment your list, the notorious “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. On second thought, that credo might be a talking point in its own right.



Leave a Reply

* Required