Bosses should definitely NOT kill ideas


Bob Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, posted a blog on Harvard Business Review entitled: If you are the Boss, start killing more ideas.

His point is that in order for some ideas to flourish and become disruptive, many others need to be killed, and we are not good at doing that

I don’t have a problem with the concept of killing ideas, but I do have a problem with any “Boss” killing any idea.

I posted the following on the blog:

I don’t think any boss should ever kill any idea. The challenge is to have a filtering process that is set up properly to filter all of the ideas, and sort them appropriately. And it should be both the “crowd” that does the sorting, as well as a cross-functional team. In the work that I doing in Innovation at Cisco, we have both – and the ideas that percolate up through either the crowd or the cross functional team are the ones that are considered for progression, with the others being potentially incremental, not disruptive innovation.

I have a problem with any one individual “killing” anything. If an idea is floated, and an individual, especially of a “higher rank”, tries to squash it, I push back enormously. Killing of ideas by an individual on qualitative bases is a recipe for innovation destruction. With proper filtering by the crowd and a cross-functional team, the discussion becomes focused on those ideas that really have potential, and the only reason they are “killed” is that further research demonstrates that they are not viable – and this becomes obvious to all.

And certainly, ideas should never be killed by anyone because they have a higher “rank” than the idea originator – the thought of that makes me exceptionally anxious

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1 Comment

Filed under Culture of innovation

One response to “Bosses should definitely NOT kill ideas

  1. Martin Stewart-Weeks

    Couldn’t agree more. Seems to me we’ve got far too many leaders who think it is their role to single handedly adjudicate on ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ideas and effectively pick winners.

    Bad idea.

    The great lesson of good leadership, especially in a world where knowledge, insight and expertise are increasingly dispersed and diffused, is precisely to avoid the instinct to exercise premature judgement. Sometimes leaderships means not doing anything…and making sure the systems and processes that Jeff refers to can do their job properly.

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