Measured Against Reality

Saturday, October 07, 2006

50 Phrases That Kill Creativity

A few days ago in my “Visual Thinking” class we were talking about thinking, and thinking about thinking, and how to produce good ideas. The instructor handed out a list called “Fifty Phrases That Kill Creativity”. The list, and the message along with it, follows.

This is an interesting list I picked up someplace and modified for use in some presentations I do on creativity. These are typical phrases you’ll hear in committee, staff and other supposed “brainstorming” sessions that end up going awry. These phrases eventually stifle any creative thinking in a group, because they destroy the part of brainstorming that allows good ideas to sprout from the offbeat or “bad” idea. People end up thinking alike, and/or stop contributing to the group because they can’t be free to come up with idea that don’t get shot down. I encourage people to take this list with them into meetings, so they can be the creativity cops, so to speak.


  • Our place is different
  • We tried that before.
  • It costs too much.
  • That's not my job.
  • They're too busy to do that.
  • We don't have the time.
  • Not enough help.
  • It's too radical a change.
  • The staff will never buy it.
  • It's against company policy.
  • The union will scream.
  • That will run up our overhead.
  • We don't have the authority.
  • Let's get back to reality
  • That's not our problem.
  • I don't like the idea.
  • I'm not saying you're wrong but...
  • You're two years ahead of your time.
  • Now's not the right time.
  • It isn't in the budget.
  • Can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  • Good thought, but impractical.
  • Let's give it more thought.
  • We'll be the laughingstock of the industry.
  • Not that again.
  • Where'd you dig that one up?
  • We did alright without it before.
  • It's never been tried.
  • Let's put that one on the back burner for now.
  • Let's form a committee.
  • It won't work in our place.
  • The executive committee will never go for it.
  • I don't see the connection.
  • Let's all sleep on it.
  • It can't be done.
  • It's too much trouble to change.
  • It won't pay for itself.
  • It's impossible.
  • I know a person who tried it and got fired.
  • We've always done it this way.
  • We'd lose money in the long run.
  • Don't rock the boat.
  • That's what we can expect from the staff.
  • Has anyone else ever tried it?
  • Let's look into it further.
  • We'll have to answer to the stockholders.
  • Quit dreaming.
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • That's too much ivory tower.
  • It's too much work.

    -Dave Dufour, Act II Associates, Inc.

    All of these phrases keep the status quo intact, and make sure that nothing truly unique can ever result from any kind of brainstorming session. So if you hear someone say one, gently remind them that you’re supposed to be thinking of something new, and shooting down ideas will never help that happen.

    Happy innovating!

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