“Great idea, but….”

“Is that really a priority right now?”

“Sounds interesting. Go write up a proposal.”

“What’s the ROI on your idea?”

Yep, I’ve heard them all. And every time I’ve been on the receiving end of one of these questions, an ember fueling my inner fire was extinguished.

While all of the above may seem like harmless, well-intended questions from competent managers, make no mistake – they kill the passion, drive, and desire to innovate. Our role as a leader is to unleash the creative powers of our teams, to act as the stewards of groundbreaking thought and transformational change, and to support and encourage ideas even if the challenges or problems seem obvious to us.

Instead of thinking “This won’t work”, consider “How can we make this work?” Or, “With a few tweaks, how can we make this a reality?” This doesn’t mean we lower our standards or accept less than the best work. High standards and encouraging leadership aren’t mutually exclusive.

Too many of us in positions of authority are innovation killers and obstacles to progress. Believe it or not, you don’t always know what’s better or what will or won’t work. Set your teams free. Help bring ideas to reality.

That’s the true measure of a leader.

What other soul-crushing, innovation-killing questions have you heard?


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2 Responses to Are You an Innovation Killer?

  1. I love this post, Brenden, and you are so right about a key role of leaders.

    One thing I’ve also seen that sucks innovation and engagement from team members is when the response is actually no response.

    When ideas go unexplored, when innovation meets silence, and when leaders do not make time to listen to team members, that is a signal to most that the leaders are not interested in what others have to say. What is interesting, is that when polled, leaders will say that they wish their team members would ‘step up’ more and be more creative.

    Huge gap in communication = massive drag on culture and business impact.

    • Thanks Andrew. Your point about no response is a right on! Sometimes, even after you’ve taken the time to go write the requested proposal, leaders just sit on it. This isn’t always malicious – leaders are pulled in many different directions with competing priorities. But to the innovator it looks like apathy at best. Thanks for jumping in on this one!

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