68 Ways To Shut Down Creativity

We’ve all had it happen to us at some point in our career. The idea that really lit a fire under us, that recharged our enthusiasm, that prompted us to spend our free time researching. The idea that was our chance to introduce something new that would save time, save money, help users, open doors to new opportunities for ourselves, our employers, our customers. The idea that we were sure people could easily agree to.

Until we talked to a manager—especially a skeptical one.

Technical writers run into more than their fair share of these brick walls. Changing technologies and newly discovered best practices give us ample opportunity to come up with new ideas and better ways of helping our users. And each new idea is another opportunity to run into a yes or a no or a maybe.

I’ve been blessed with managers who said yes more often than not, and with managers who were generous with maybe, usually telling me “You’ve piqued my interest. I have some questions; come back with the answers in a week and we’ll see where to go from there.” And I’ve had managers who couldn’t muster even a maybe, whose responses consistently alternated between the following:

  1. We’re not ready for that. 
  2. It will never work.
  3. Who will do it? (or, If you do it, will I have to take something else of yours and reassign it to someone who will have to be trained?)
  4. Dead silence

It turns out there’s at least 64 other creativity-killing stock responses. James Lukaszewski wrote out the list in an article for The Public Relations Strategist, titled “You Can’t Be Serious!: Responses That Stifle Creativity.” (The link leads to a PDF file, so be patient while Acrobat loads.)

The list was written with the intent that it would serve as a reference to things to avoid saying altogether. But it also can serve as a useful tool to help bulletproof pitches and create counter-responses beforehand.

How many of these have you been on the receiving end of? And how did you deal with them?

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