Idea Blocking: Is It an Office Sport?

How do big ideas get shot down? It doesn’t take much. Offering new ideas is easy. In fact, most of us think of several things that could be improved as we go through our work day. There are a million sources of innovation.

But making a wish list of new ideas won’t get you far unless you work in one of those rare places where creativity is realistically welcomed. Many give lip service but reality is different.

How many times are new ideas presented and shot down in your meetings? Often company leaders claim to be open to new ideas but don’t back that up with behaviors that are encouraging or receptive.

The very act of asking for “good ideas” implies that only good ones are welcome. Who wants to take a chance on getting told “why that won’t work?” Creative problem solving and brainstorming has to allow for bad ideas to come forth as well.

This is why so many people hold their tongues and don’t speak up. Sometimes, those same ideas get revised and usurped by other people who know how to package and sell them to others. “But I thought of that first,” won’t get you anywhere.

It’s not just management that shoots down ideas. Our colleagues engage in the sport, in the same competitive spirit that goes into blocking a basket shot.

Only nobody wins, no one scores, no one saves time, money or energy in the game of “idea blocking.” Look at it this way: Our brains are magnificent innovation machines, Idea Generators. They’re superbly built and fantastically efficient. But fragile.

If enough output is disregarded, belittled, stolen or rejected, it will shut down and stop generating ideas. But it will remember this being done to it, and it will do it to other brains in an attempt to get even. It never stops seeking rewards, even when they’re negative.

The solution starts with observing and listening to how ideas are offered forth in your office. How do people respond? How do you respond? How well-received are the Idea Generators? What can you do differently to stop the blocking and shooting down of ideas?

Think about it and get back to me. I’m interested.

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