How To Kill New Ideas Swiftly And Thoroughly

“I don’t know what they have to say. It makes no difference anyway. Whatever it is, I’m against it——Sung by Groucho Marx, in the 1932 comedy movie, “Horse Feathers.”


The world is full of people with new ideas, and it’s often difficult to cope with the deluge. After all, new ideas can drag us out of the status quo, change important paradigms, and give us lots more work to do.

Relax. Ideocide is easy. Here are some foolproof methods for dealing with disturbing and dreaded new ideas.

Immediately say: Don’t be ridiculous.” After all, if a new idea sounds absurd, why continue the discussion? If someone else thought of it first, the odds are the idea is ridiculous anyway. Most new ideas are a bother and bound to fail. Right? (This is also a good way to keep your kids from growing up creative.)

Or start with: We tried that before and it didn’t work.” Beware of “It wasn’t tried in the best way” or “We have a better way to use the idea.” It’s wasteful to repeat a past failure. Bellow that no upstart could possibly think of a new way to use an old, ridiculous idea.

Continue with: We’ve never done it before.” After all, if it has never been done before, there must be a good reason for not doing it now. Doing something new means a lot of extra time, effort, and money.

Or just say: It costs too much.” Be ready if someone says that the final results will justify the costs. Don’t give in. No one can know whether the final results will justify anything.

Shift to: It’s too radical a change.” You could also say: “Why rock the boat” or “Don’t make waves” or “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This last saying is a very effective idea killer.

Moan: We don’t have the time.” Face it. If you wanted to spend more time, you would have new ideas yourself. It takes all your time to do the old stuff.

Declare: We’re too small for it. Maybe when we get bigger, we can handle it. And don’t listen to the argument that the idea may help you get bigger. You can’t be sure of that.

Exclaim: Other people would never go for it. You always know how other people feel about such things, don’t you?

Snicker: We’ll be the laughing stock.” Say this quickly and change the topic. Avoid all talk about innovation and creativity.

Seriously say: Let’s form a committee.” This can be ideocide at its best. Appoint enough impatient, uninterested people untrained in creativity triggers and team interaction skills to keep the committee bogged down forever. (For an example of this, check out your next committee meeting.) Later, set up a committee to study what the first committee did, or what unrelated committees did.

End with: It’s not my job.” Since it’s not your job, why do it? Or even listen to it. Don’t ever be fooled into doing someone else’s work.

For more ways to carry out ideocide, attend a meeting of good, decent people who have not been taught meeting skills or creative problem solving skills. They’ll teach you a few new ways to commit ideocide.

WARNING: Do not try to think of other ways to kill ideas. They have probably been tried before, are too radical, won’t help, or are a waste of time. Besides, other people won’t go for it and you’ll be a laughing stock because it’s not your job.

Practice killing ideas until you are perfect. Tell people you want new ideas. Then gently shoot all the ideas down with these methods. You won’t go wrong. After all, who wants to change things? It’s all downhill after that happens.


Fun’s over. Of all the ways to spoil creative thinking, quick negative criticism heads the list. When presented with a new idea most people make a negative comment under the guise of honest criticism, devil’s advocate, or constructive criticism. Indeed, quick negative criticism afflicts our society. “You don’t want me to lie,” they say. Successful creative people, who have written about their creative thinking, agree that quick negative criticism has a devastating effect on new ideas. Albert Einstein made this point in his autobiography.

And check out my book:


How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.” 


©2016 by Ed Glassman


Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

His book: “R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work” is available.   CLICK here  OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.