Want to know how to kill creativity? go to a cocktail party. No, I’m not talking about tossing back Bahama Mamas until the only joke you can think of to tell is the latest Doonesburry cartoon. I’m talking about listening. Cocktail parties are all about unwinding, and when people unwind they tell you things. The thing they tell you most is what happened at the office that put them down–then stopped them cold on the path toward creativity and left them feeling disempowered, demotivated, and defunct.
It’s amazing, if you go to as many schmooze-fests as I have over the years, how succinctly people will explain to you how their boss failed them at the crucial moment when they needed encouragement to go forward. Here are some of the creativity killers I’ve heard at receptions, conferences, seminars, speeches, and cocktail parties that are guarenteed to make the person on the other end of the conversation go dead:
- It’s not in the budget.
- The boss will never go for it.
- Great idea! Let’s form a committee to tackle it.
- It will never work.
- That’s against our policy.
- Who will we get to do it?
- Let’s think about it for a while.
- Let’s discuss it some other time.
- Why not leave well enough alone?
- It’s too late to fix it now.
- It’s too soon to fix it now.
- We have done it this way for so many years, and we still make a profit.
- Why fix it if it isn’t broken?
- We tried it five years ago and it didn’t work.
- That’s not how we do things around here.
Mackay’s Moral: Cowards die a thousand deaths. Unfortunately, cowards kill thousands of creative ideas before death catches up with them.