How to massacre a great idea


How to massacre a great idea



If you are looking for a ‘how-to’ on completely killing innovation (whilst destroying an innovation culture) in your organisation, it really is hard to go past Harvard Business School professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s 9 rules for stifling innovation.

It’s one of those things that is ‘funny because it’s true’ (or perhaps less funny if you work in an environment in which Kanter’s “rules” are being meticulously followed!). You can find the complete list of rules here but I thought I’d focus this week’s post on rule number 2:

“Invoke history (If a new idea comes up for discussion, find a precedent in an earlier idea that didn’t work).” Sadly, it’s a rule that many people follow – religiously. It is very easy for anyone to come up with all sorts of reasons for why something won’t work – and invoking history is somewhere near the top of the list!

How to deal with those who are killing innovation 

Our experience however, is that people typically aren’t just being difficult – in fact, they ‘wear’ this approach as a ‘badge of honour’, demonstrating their ability to challenge and scrutinise things. Often, they really are just trying to add value in the best way they know how.

If this sounds familiar, you may want to consider creating a structure for discussion when you present an idea. You might ask people to spend the first 10 minutes doing nothing but thinking about how the idea could be improved along some specific dimensions. Or asking them to spend a few minutes thinking about what could be done to ensure the idea could avoid the ill-fate of a previous one. The options are endless!

We have found this unbelievably simple technique to be extremely effective in ‘re-channelling’ people’s desire to ‘add value’ when it comes to new ideas. Give it a go – and let us know what worked best for you.

As always, if you would like any help with building robustness into ideas (or anything else innovation-related) feel free to contact me at – I’d love to hear from you!

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