13 Ways to Destroy Creativity and Innovation


1. Creativity Killer ➤ Keeping people in the dark

  • “It’s just not right. I can’t tell you why, but I just don’t like it.”
  • “I know exactly what I want, but can’t explain it. When I see it, though, I’ll tell you.”

2. Creativity Killer ➤ Dictatorships

  • “Here’s my idea and how to execute it!”
  • “Here’s my idea, what’s yours?”

3. Creativity Killer ➤ Unrealistic time frames

  • “It’s only one page. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete.”
  • “I know there’s no reason to have it tomorrow, but I want it then anyway.”

4. Creativity Killer ➤ Procrastination

  • “We really do want suggestions. It’s not our fault if we’re too busy to act on them.”
  • “I think we’ve got it now. I only have minor corrections to the thirteenth draft.”

5. Creativity Killer ➤ Formalities and protocol

  • “Put it in writing.”
  • “Make sure your ideas conform to our format.”
  • “Don’t ask questions, just follow the rules.”

6. Creativity Killer ➤ Bureaucracy

  • “It’s a great idea. Now just get the 10 required signoffs and we’re ready to roll.”

7. Creativity Killer ➤ Discouraging new ideas

  • “I won’t have time to meet with you, so why don’t you drop it in the mail?”
  • “I personally wouldn’t do it, but why don’t you try anyway?”
  • “Don’t come up with ideas, just do your job.”

8. Creativity Killer ➤The evaluation process

  • “Rather than take the time to give you my comments, it’ll be easier if I take care of it myself.”

9. Creativity Killer ➤ Incentives

  • “Why say thank you? It’s his job, isn’t it?”

10. Creativity Killer ➤ Fear of failure

  • “Even though you let me down last time, I’m going to give you another chance.”
  • “Will you bet your job on it?”

11. Creativity Killer ➤ Politics

  • “What will the boss think?”
  • “I wonder if my idea will offend anyone.”

12. Creativity Killer ➤ Resistance to change

  • “If it’s such a great idea, how come no one ever came up with it before?”
  • “We’ve never done it this way before.”

13. Creativity Killer ➤ The caste system

  • “Why should I listen to you? It’s not your area of expertise.”

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  1. says

    Along the lines of the 1st one, I once had a boss who would ask the team for a solution; but, he always had a specific answer in mind. He wouldn’t say what the answer was. He just wanted us to come to the same conclusion. Eventually, we caught on and made an organizational joke out of it. But, it really did inhibit new ideas.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      You’re absolutely right Joy. The team probably wasn’t invested in finding the “best” answer because they knew it really didn’t matter.

      Have a great day!



  2. Duane Tilden says

    Great list, lot of interesting and provocative statements. I would like to say that in my experience I have found that “putting things in writing” is an essential CYA (cover your ass) tactic… and as such a very useful tool in avoiding future problems with agreements made over the phone where miscommunication can be costly… including avoiding future litigation.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      I agree Duane. Sometimes putting it in writing is crucial. The problem occurs when people spend more time covering their behinds than moving the organization forward.

      Have a great day!



  3. Tom Wrona says

    Frank, you’ve described “The Mushroom Theory of Management”.

    1. Keep ’em in the dark.

    2. Bury ’em in manure.

    3. After they break through all of the manure and grown a little, cut ’em up and can ’em.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Saeed, You make an excellent point. I’ll be back soon with some ways to stimulate creativity in organizations. Stay tuned.



  4. Suchismita Pai says

    Nice post. Creativity and innovation can never thrive as long as there is fear. The fear could come from the dictatorship,politics, the caste system and resistance to change.. all of which are present in almost every organisation. If only all bosses could understand and internalize this list!

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Suchismita, You’re absolutely right. Fear destroys innovation. Next Tuesday’s post will address that point further. Thanks for your thoughts.



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