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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 08-May-2019
Posted by: Daniel ZAPFL
Category: Innovation process

How to use killer phrases in innovation management


In every company there are employees who are part of the innovation process but who nevertheless try to prevent new paths from being taken in the best possible way. Their most effective tools for this are false arguments, some of which are already insulting. In this blog post you can read which 10 killer phrases are used most frequently, how you encounter them and why you absolutely have to get their users back on board.


"That's a very good approach. Unfortunately, we can't map it in SAP." The friendly, but argumentatively difficult to refute statement will bring a contemptible smile to your lips as a reader. But be honest! You have certainly heard such standing sentences in one or the other session. These false arguments seem like falling barriers that suddenly block off new paths into unknown terrain. The closed barriers work like a thought prohibition and drive away each thought to strike the path lying behind it perhaps nevertheless. However, nagging, criticism and fear of the new is part of every corporate culture and thus also part of the culture of innovation.

Paper Establishment of an innovation culture


The 10 most common killer phrases in innovation management

When placing these prohibitions of thinking in the innovation process, the preservers of the existing proceed extremely creatively. The abundance of killer phrases in innovation management is enormous. These 10 phrases and their variations are most frequently used in companies to prevent the emergence of new ideas:

1) We've tried that before.

2) There are experts for that! Or to put it another way: To be able to judge this, you lack the specialist knowledge. This third alternative is even more underhand: more capable people than you have been able to solve it!

3) It works fine the way it does.

4) Great idea, why didn't the Japanese (or those in Silicon Valley) invent it?

5) We don't have time for this! The dishonest variant is: We are currently implementing SAP. Indirectly, that's interesting, but it's a topic for a later session.

6) Have you considered what a flood of paper this will entail?

7) Isn't that too detailed?

8) You are too young, gain experience!

9) A good idea, but not necessarily for us! Somewhat more concisely: That's none of our business! Or more instructive: We have our principles!

10) I'd say the same if I were you. Translated this means: You pursue your own interests or even a hidden agenda.


These and all the other killer phrases you encounter in innovation management have two things in common:

- You're killing an idea without arguments.

- They insult or intimidate the idea giver, so that he behaves passively in the further process. 

If external people are involved in the innovation process, such as in the LEAD User Method, the effect of the killer phrases is particularly devastating. Because when internal employees demonstrate or even insult the LEAD users, who make their knowledge and creativity available free of charge, in a workshop, these external helpers will say goodbye to the process.


Especially the most valuable employees tend to use fake arguments

Experienced employees often tend to use killer phrases in innovation management. They have already experienced and seen a lot and therefore believe they already know everything. Your own know-how, as valuable as it is, turns out to be a hurdle for new ways. These obstacles are created by experienced employees using killer phrases for everyone else involved in the innovation process.


Prohibitions of killer phrases are of little use, but can cause great damage

Similar to bullshit bingo, you can ridicule or prohibit the use of killer phrases in innovation management. It is an effective measure to ensure an objective and appreciative handling in the workshops. At the same time, you risk that experienced employees in particular misunderstand this step as a ban on criticism and no longer want to get involved in the innovation process. However, it is precisely this group that you depend on when developing new products - because they possess valuable know-how. Their knowledge also helps to turn an idea into an innovation through criticism and questioning.


How to turn killer phrases into valuable inputs for the innovation process

So you can't ban killer phrases from innovation management. This is not even necessary. Because bogus arguments can be transformed into contributions that can prove to be extremely valuable for the innovation process. This metamorphosis succeeds in two steps:


1) Address the topic of killer phrases in innovation management directly in the first innovation workshop. Usually no external persons take part in these conferences. Define exactly what is meant by this and how these bogus arguments work. Provide practical examples that your audience can smile about. Repeat the most important killer phrases so that the participants of the innovation workshop remember them. And put the participants in the innovation workshop in the position of an external expert whom an employee confronts with a false argument.


2) As soon as pseudo arguments are put forward at the conference in which external persons or LEAD users participate, you should specifically point this out. Every employee will remember the topic and even certain killer phrases they smiled about at the first internal conference. With this step you can first relax the situation. Give the critic the opportunity to turn his bogus argument into substantial criticism. You can do this by asking specific questions, for example: Why is there not enough time? What kind of expert would be needed to assess a particular issue? How does the introduction of SAP hinder the willingness to try something new? Even insulting requests to speak can be neutralized with arguments and a pinch of humor.


Conclusion: How to use killer phrases in innovation management

The internal barriers to innovation are in most cases the highest. The many years of experience of our employees play a dual role: On the one hand, this know-how is an important basis for every innovation. At least when a company does not want to leave its roots and penetrates into completely new territory. On the other hand, experienced employees tend to use killer phrases in innovation management to "limit" the creativity of others in the truest sense of the word. A ban on killer phrases is often misunderstood as a ban on thinking and thus has a negative effect on the innovation process. You can only break resistance to something new if you specifically address it. This allows you to generate substantial criticism from bogus arguments, which enriches and drives the innovation project itself.Establishment of an innovation culture

Daniel ZAPFL

Born in Graz, Austria. After positions as project manager & head of innovation of the project management at LEAD Innovation, Daniel Zapfl has been responsible for the success of the innovation projects of our innovation partners since January 2018.

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