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10 Ways to Stop a Great Idea in its Tracks

Updated on December 13, 2012

And Discourage the Next One, Too

How could an uneducated, unqualified Idaho farm boy, still in high school, invent television? Be a world game-changer? At 14, Philo Farnsworth was inspired by his father’s plowed fields. He dreamed that electronic images could be created line by parallel line. His inventive ideas did go to the top, but that was in 1928 and the early 1930s. They were simpler times. Today, a genius needs a PHD and very good connections or his bright ideas will be ignored.

Clearly, Farnsworth was a genius. But was he the last genius? There are no more? Maybe there isn’t a solution out there for every problem, but how will we know if we usually suppress creative new ideas? We will never know if the attitude at the top is expressed like this:

1. You’re not important. We don’t have to pay attention to you.

2. It wasn’t my idea, so how good can it be?

3. Staff doesn’t have time to look at every letter or email.

4. What do you know about it? You’re not an expert.

5. That would never work!

6. That’s never been done before.

7. We’ve always done it this way.

8. When we want your opinion, we’ll ask for it.

9. We’re busy here. Don’t bother us with ideas.

10. We’re smarter than you.

Technology firms like Microsoft and Apple frequently surprise us with new developments. Do their ideas all originate at top management? Probably not! If a janitor has a bright idea at Apple, do you think he’s ignored? Creativity has to be appreciated and encouraged in companies that want to be leaders in their industries.

Almost every institution faces problems that management can’t solve. The larger the organization, the less likely a good solution or idea will surface. Of course, some issues are too complex for easy solutions. So the struggle goes on year after year, from crisis to crisis, as mediocrity is accepted and creativity is denied.

Here’s an example: RECYCLE UNUSED MEDICINE

We probably throw away---flush down the drain---send to the landfill---billions of dollars worth of prescription drugs every year. At the same time, both in our country and in developing countries, people who need them and can’t afford them have to go without. And while toxic medicines are entering streams and groundwater, millions of patients are buying drugs to replace them.

With appropriate care and safeguards, we can recycle unused medicine. Several states already permit this with proper care from licensed pharmacists. If a pharmaceutical is in original packaging, can pass a careful inspection and is not out of date, shouldn’t it be made available? If not here, somewhere in the world?

Given a choice between NO medicine---and a medicine that is too expensive---I would gladly take a recycled product that had been properly inspected and approved. Patients in third world countries should have that choice. Among statements 1 to 10 above, which ones will be used to kill this idea?

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