Idea Killers: Stop Judging and Start Asking Questions

Every day, great ideas are shot down because they look stupid at first.  That’s because our natural tendency is to make an immediate judgement.  Perhaps over the millennia, making a quick judgement has been helpful in hostile situations, but in a creative or business environment, it’s deadly. Even if it’s part of our DNA, we have to fight the desire to make snap judgements.

When a new idea is presented, no matter how strange or unlikely it may seem, give it some space.  Ask some questions.  Look at it from different perspectives.  Above all, don’t use a snap judgement for political purposes to humiliate opponents.  I’ve been in far too many meetings when great ideas where killed – not because of the idea, but because someone used it to take a swipe and boost their ego.

Ideas are more important than policies, rules, or sermons, because ideas can change the world.  So hold off on quick judgements and give ideas time to prove themselves.

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  1. Your approach to ideas can be like how you treat or view people. Some look for the best in others and accentuate the positive, some look at the negative and critique.

    I have found that ideas that do not immediately strike brilliance should be considered as “in development”. You must at least entertain the idea’s potential, relevance, timing, application etc. Circle back around, have further research done, table it for futher review, treat it as a valuable asset.

    I seem to think that a lot of “shot down” ideas walked across the street to become THE big idea for someone else through the years.

    Good leadership/meeting skills are essential as well, but we won’t go there…

  2. I’ve produced a few albums, and my rule in the recording studio with anyone I work with is that we must be willing to at least try every idea, even if a positive outcome is unsure or even dubious. The artists I’ve worked with have discovered so many great musical ideas out of this rule that would have otherwise been too easily dismissed.

    Obviously this approach is not possible in every circumstance, but when it is, I guarantee some surprising results. Nothing kills creativity faster than saying no immediately out of hand.

  3. so true – I’ve watched very talented people devolve into high schoolers because someone other than themselves came up with a good idea.

  4. I learned a valuable lesson from my friend, Flint Dille.  He won’t let anyone criticize an idea unless they have a replacement to offer.  Doesn’t mean the replacement will be accepted, just that nobody can say, “I don’t like it” w/o taking responsibility for why they don’t like it & how they would do it differently.

  5. When I was doing student leadership counseling back in college and through my 20’s, we had a policy when doing brainstorming and working through a process. “No Killer Statements.” Basically, allow all ideas to come out and be part of the process without making snap judgements, i.e. “dumb idea,” or “that will never work,” etc.

    It not only allows ideas to flow it protects each group member and encourages them to keep contributing. Who knows, their first 4 ideas could be could be dumb and never work but the 5th one could be genius.

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