Little Words Kill Big Ideas



In a previous blog post, I shared how bad brainstorming is a place where good ideas go to die.  Yet, there is more than one way to kill an idea, and such foibles are not limited to the confines of brainstorming meetings. 

Words and actions of others kill ideas with random abandon. 

If you kill my ideas:

(1) I may not have another,
(2) I may lose the inspiration to seek another,
(3) it may trigger a revenge motive to purposely kill the ideas of yours and others, and/or
(4) it may discourage or destroy my overall creativity or creative process.

Indeed, the opportunities to kill ideas and destroy creative momentum run amuck.

You #KillMyIdeas:

1. by saying: “that’s stupid”

2. with a piercing stare

3. by saying: “we can’t afford that”

4. by saying: “you need to rethink that”

5. with a grim reaction

6. when you say “no”

7. by changing the subject

8. with too many restrictions

9. by shoving them back into the box

10. with your silence

11. by saying: “the boss didn’t like it”

12. with corrections

13. by saying: “it has been done before”

14. with a smugness that your ideas are better

15. by saying: “you need to think more about it”

16. with a quick ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha

17. by rushing me

18. with excessive demands

19. by stereotyping me

20. with a roll of your eyes

21. with high expectations

22. by providing excessive feedback

23. by making excuses

24. by saying: “we don’t need more ideas”

25. with words that hurt

26. by saying: “it is on my desk and I will get to it when I get to it”

27. when you tell me exactly what you want

28. by being honest

29. when you crushed my previous idea

30. with insincere praise

31. when you compare me to others

32. when another idea is chosen

33. with bad brainstorming methods

34. by being anal

35. by not listening

36. because you can

37. because I let you

38. by saying: “you have got to be kidding”

39. by ignoring me

40. by reacting a little weird

41. with your own experiences

42. when you continue to multitask while I seek your feedback

43. by stealing them

44. because you have before

45. by being my superior

46. by responding: “don’t be so different”

47. with an imaginary knife thru my creative and fragile heart

48. with one-upmanship

49. by asking: “why can’t you think like others do?”

50. with your flippant remarks

51. by insisting on normal

52. with red marks on my memo or report

53. by being happy with average

54. by saying: “you just don’t understand”

55. by seeking confirmation of your own ideas

56. with your divided attention

57. by being you

58. by asking: “why can’t you be like everyone else?”

59. with a non-response to my email, text, or phone message

60. by saying: “you know we can’t do that”

61. by saying: “I’ll get back to you”

62. with a rejection letter

63. by claiming it as yours

64. by saying: “that’s a little too weird”

65. by not letting me finish

66. by asking: “what would others think?”

67. by asking too many questions

68. by using my brain for target practice

69. by having too many meetings

70. with your jealousy

71. by choosing the competitor

72. by not listening

73. when you say: “I have one better”

74. when you don’t retweet me

75. when you don’t comment on my blog post.

The Take-Away.

Howard W. Newton says, “little words hurt big ideas.” 

Be conscious and cautious of what you say and how you react to others’ ideas. 

Or, you just may kill ’em.

More Aha Lessons.

50 Phrases that Kill Ideas by Dave Dufour, @DaveDufour 

Ten Great Ways to Crush Creativity by Paul Sloane, @PaulSloane

Idea Killers: Ways to Stop Ideas by Scott Berkun, @Berkun

Brainstorming: A Place Where Good Ideas Go to Die by Denny McCorkle, @TweetRightBrain


“Every really new idea looks crazy at first.” Alfred North Whitehead

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” Albert Einstein

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” Oscar Wilde


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3 Comments on “Little Words Kill Big Ideas”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great list! I’ve heard several of those lines said while working on projects and I’ve seen projects stop progressing or stop because of them. I love brainstorming throughout the whole process. Some great ideas come after we “didn’t need any more ideas” (#24), and it made the project that much better.


  2. Denny McCorkle says:

    Scott, Thanks for your feedback. I love brainstorming, too.


  3. Judit says:

    Great list of idea-killers! I heard most of them at some point of my life.Sometimes comments like that just make me work harder on my ideas, so they have the opposite effect. Other people’s unbelief in my ideas might be the beginning of the next great idea.


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