Three Ways to Stamp Out Innovation

by JillWellington from Pixabay

If you’re like me, you may be wondering how to shoot down some good ideas. There are too many of them. People keep saying “innovation” and “disruption.” It’s exhausting. How can we easily stop these ideas and keep them from growing? We need to make sure that nobody with decision making authority hears these ideas because then we might be forced to implement them. Then the good idea fairy will get all of the credit.

Fortunately for us, it’s pretty easy. We have inertia on our side. In fact, it’s a lot easier to shoot down a good idea than it is to defend it. Here we can make the good idea fairies miserable with some asymmetric verbal warfare. By the end of the discussion, they will have worked against themselves! They will probably even think we are right and give up on their quest for new, interesting ideas. They will know that we do the things the way we do for a reason and change is pointless.

Ask a lot of questions. It is easy to ask questions. You don’t really have to know much about anything to ask questions. The best questions start with “what about” or “what if.” If the good idea fairy is trying introduce a new technology, all the better. Ask tons of in-depth questions about the technology. You can easily catch them off guard here because few people know everything about a technology. Just keep asking questions. Try something like, “what language do they use for the backend?” “How does” questions are great. This makes it easy to shoot down any tools which have proprietary elements because the “how does” part may not be public.

Finally, make sure to end your exchange with something like: “I like the idea, I do. It just seems like we have a lot of questions that we need to answer before we can move forward with this. If you can just be ready to answer these questions next time, we might be able to move forward with this.

Lecture the status quo. You may need an expert for this. You preferably want someone who has done the same job for many years and hasn’t changed much of what they are doing during this time period. The goal is to transform this person’s pitch into a full on lesson about the process that this good idea would improve.

Your expert should start off by giving their resume with a strong emphasis on how many years they’ve been doing this. Then as the good idea starts, just basically ignore it and start explaining the process. Make sure to mention as many in depth terms about the existing process as possible. Acronyms and jargon are encouraged.

Just wait until the good idea fairy asks a question. Bingo! Now you have shown that they don’t know what they’re talking about. A good closer here is, “I think you are on the right track, and your idea might just work. Just spend some more time understanding the process that you are trying to improve.” Point the fairy in the direction of the called in expert. Don’t worry — the expert is too busy to help them contribute.

Raise the bar. Okay, your existing solution may not have all of the stamps of approval it’s supposed to have, but the new solution should! Security is a big one here. Make sure to ask if the new solution has X, Y, and Z security approvals. You can also say, “have you run this by…” then list an organization or person who you never talk to, and always says no.

If the fairy mentions that the existing solution hasn’t met any of these requirements, here’s any easy counter: “We recognize that we haven’t always done things correctly, we just want to make sure that we are doing things right going forward.” Don’t worry, that doesn’t oblige you to actually have your existing solution meet the above criteria.

I hope this essay has given you some ideas on how to kill innovation or new ideas. The last thing we want is people trying new things because that might interrupt our made-up deadlines. Worse, their idea may compete with what we are currently doing and require us to learn something new.

I write about computer science, computer security, and cyber policy.