Idea breeders and idea killers in the office - Executips


Monday, October 2, 2023

Idea breeders and idea killers in the office

“Kill the inventor!”

There is a (possibly true) story that says Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar ordered the execution of a person who showed him his creation, an early kind of flexible glass. Caesar was concerned that the new product would devalue gold and other materials resulting in a major change in the economic system of the time.

The GPS (Global Positioning System) also almost did not get made because the U.S. Air Force doubted its usefulness. They were reluctant to approve the big budget needed to develop the technology.

Potentially powerful ideas can also get killed in the office on a daily basis.


It is common in brainstorming sessions that suggestions are immediately turned down. Automatic remarks can be "That's been done before," "That's not practical," "The boss will not like it." As a result, the others may be discouraged from speaking up because a rejection really hurts. 

It is best for the brainstorm leader to consider every suggestion valid until it’s time for shortlisting.


Some leaders inspire, others inspire fear.

A boss who scolds a subordinate for submitting an idea he doesn’t like may actually kill the spirit of innovation in the office. Who would like to experiment on a new thing if you could be “punished” in the end?

The terrifying boss can do even worse: criticize a subordinate in front of their peers!

For fear of being humiliated, employees will stay in the safe lane of thinking by second-guessing the boss or by doing what has always been approved before. 

A boss who stays calm while expressing his thoughts can make the office a safe place for original thinking.


An article in the Harvard Business Review website noted that too much of visible perks for a boss may intimidate subordinates. The big office room, the exclusive elevator, the expensive car, and other trappings of power create too much distance between them and the staff. Those around the office VIP may not want to get into trouble with such a formidable person. They may  always agree with the boss (and laugh at his jokes!) If nobody dares contradict the almighty leader, the result can be groupthink.

Let ideas grow

One good way to induce the birth and growth of ideas in the office is for the boss to show support and encouragement. No one ‘gets punished” for suggesting something silly because history has proven that some great ideas were born stupid.

It will also be good for the leader to have genuine humility –to admit that he could be wrong and the subordinate is right. 

You may read:

9 Potentially World-Changing Inventions That Never Came to Be by Jessica Miley on

12 Inventions You Religiously Rely On that Almost Never Happened by Tiffany White on

Ego is the Enemy of Good Leadership by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter on the Harvard Business Review website


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