Surprising, perhaps, considering I’m responsible for coming up with great ideas for our clients every single day.
I know how to present ideas; I know how to sell ideas. And like the blind pig finding the occasional truffle, I even create some good ones now and again.
I just don’t know where they come from.
What I do know is new ideas, good and bad, are very fragile and easy to scare away.
And once you frighten them, others don’t show up.
The other thing I know is they don’t suffer criticism well. That’s not to say all ideas are good ideas and should be used, only that criticizing ideas at the same time you’re trying to come up with them is the way to make sure you don’t come up with any more.
Finally, I know shooting down new ideas is the quickest way to prove they won’t ever work.
Plenty of people will shoot down your ideas, whether they realize it or not. And so, you must be on constant alert, vigilant to the telltale signs of idea killing.
I call killing ideas “concepticide.”
Like a feral cat hunkering down before it pounces on an unwitting bird, concepticidal maniacs clearly telegraph their intentions, both with body- and spoken-language markers.
Here are some giveaways:
Rolling eyes. Concepticides often initiate their attacks with signs of frustration at having to explain why your idea will never work. Keep an eye peeled for shrugged shoulders, shaking heads, and waved hands. Those are the ways Concepticides let you know they know your ideas are no good.
Telling intros. Listen for dismissive disclaimers such as, “I don’t know anything about copywriting, but…” If you don’t know anything about copywriting (or whatever), then why are you qualified to comment on it? I don’t know anything about Bulgarian geographical tort reform either, but I don’t offer my opinion on the subject.
Letting you down easy. Concepticides like to feel good about themselves by damning your idea with faint praise before they criticize. Saying, “That’s great, but…” or “I love it. However…” are examples of this. “However” and “but” negate anything said before.
Constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is hardly the former and almost always the latter.
Frying eggs. That’s the little sizzling sound critics make with their mouths when they want to make it subtly obvious they’re not happy your ideas. That’s where the Spanish saying, “No frieír huevos” (don’t fry eggs) comes from. Frying eggs usually goes hand in hand with rolling eyes (see point one).
Historical references. As in, “We’ve already tried that; it doesn’t work.” The interesting thing about this type of concepticide is it’s seldom accurate, mostly because your critic doesn’t usually wait until you’re finished presenting your idea before their heads start shaking. When they do let you finish, you’ll find the idea they tried years ago is usually different from what you’re proposing anyway.
The other way to know when Concepticides are getting ready to pounce is when their superiors ask them for opinions and they’re in the position to show off. The equation is elementary: when Concepticides compliment you they hear themselves saying, “You’re smart.” But when they practice concepticide and shoot down your ideas they’re telling their boss or their client they’re smart.
After all, if they just left it up to you, who knows what crazy things you’d come up with?
Like children, ideas only live up to their potential and achieve greatness when they’re accepted, nourished, and encouraged to thrive. Whether you’re the mother or father, creator or patron, it is your responsibility to fight concepticide whenever it rears its ugly head.