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by: Angela Maiers

Nurturing New Ideas: Turning “Yeah, But” Into "Yes! How?"

We have all been there. We come up with a new idea or a creative solution, and instead of our adaptability being celebrated, we hear these two little words: "Yeah…but." In other words, “ARE YOU CRAZY?”

New ideas are fragile. The more creative, wild, or off-the-wall, the more fragile they become. Fragile ideas need to be nourished. This lesson intends to keep those new and creative ideas moving forward. It is far easier to kill an idea than to encourage it and turn it into a useful solution. I want students to be aware of how their language and response to new ideas can alter the course of discovery and breakthroughs. 

I tell students that ideas are like gentle flowers. In order to bloom, the flower needs tender loving care. Even a slight wrong move could stifle the flower’s ability to bloom. I make the connection that new ideas are like those flowers. In the beginning stages of growth, one wrong move and we kill it. We must be very careful with our new ideas; one wrong word has the potential to kill the fruit of our most capable creative thinking. Even if the idea seems far-fetched, we should never kill the thought or the practice of sharing new ideas.

Putting the words that could potentially damage or stifle a new idea on public display makes students aware of what to and what not to say. Here are some examples of our work. 

To kill an idea, say:

  • A good idea, but … 
  • Too much work 
  • You could never do that 
  • They will never let us 
  • It's not my job 
  • Let’s talk about it some more 
  • We’ve never tried it that way before
  • If nobody else is doing that…
  • Someone else is already doing that…
  • We could never do that here 
  • We tried that already
  • more creative thinking killers

To nurture an idea, say … 

  • Wow, that could be very cool 
  • Yes, and … 
  • That’s a good idea/point/comment 
  • Great, let’s try it 
  • How can we make time to see if it will work? 
  • What resources would we need to do it? 
  • Tell me more 
  • How can we make it work? 
  • Let’s try it out 
  • What can I do to help this happen? 
  • I like it 
  • That sounds interesting, tell me more 

Hopefully you will see there are many ways in which you can be constructive. There are even ways to encourage an idea without necessarily agreeing on action

Be on a constant watch out for putting down an idea too early without understanding the positive reasons for it being suggested.