This One Word Will Always Stifle Creativity

Great entrepreneurs understand that great ideas can often come from really bad ones.

learn more about Peter Gasca

By Peter Gasca

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Apple's iconic founder, Steve Jobs, often quipped that "saying no to a thousand things" allows entrepreneurs to concentrate talent and improve results on just a few projects. He demonstrated this in 1997 when he returned to Apple after a long absence and immediately slashed the number of products from 350 to 10. Within two years, the company was laser-focused on a handful of innovative projects, leading the company from near death to become the most valuable company in the world.

Jobs' credo and profound effect on Apple is difficult to ignore. Getting caught up in saying "no" to every project and idea, however, is a surefire way of shutting down the creative spigot that drives all great entrepreneurs.

Related: Think Your Mundane Idea Can't Be a Big Innovation? Take a Second Look.

Consider a personal experience I had with a colleague, who pitched an idea for a new product a few years ago. The idea did not fit in with our product plans or our company goals, so I immediately balked at the idea without even giving it a second thought. Knowing me, he asked that I take a little time and allow it percolate.

He said, "You can say "no' -- but just not yet."

After considering this for a second, I realized that I was becoming one of those guys who defaulted to "no" whenever a new idea came across my desk. I was becoming the same person I loathed for their ability to stifle another person's ambition with that single, negative and indifferent word.

I started to consider why I seemed to default to "no." For the most part, it was a defense mechanism deriving from one of these reasons:

1. Lack of time. As an entrepreneur, it is difficult to lead your team while managing the countless activities and challenges your company faces. It is easy to put off new ideas because you have too much on your plate or are too preoccupied with other things. For this reason, learn to delegate tasks when possible so that you can focus on growing and developing your business.

Related: Why You Should Say 'Yes' More

2. Lack of resources. Small companies often do not have the capital or talent to take on multiple projects, and indeed starting and trying to run too many will dilute your financial and human resources. That should not, however, be an excuse to turning down every new idea. Every great company should have a pipeline of new ideas that at the very least promotes creative discussions that could lead to something useful and valuable.

3. Fear of failure. More than likely, the simple thought of failing or shifting focus from an existing idea can squash a new idea. Most new ideas are probably not going to work, but that does not necessarily mean that you should turn them down right away. Allow them time to simmer, as they may gestate and evolve into something that is extremely useful for your company.

After I allowed time for my colleague's idea to simmer, I still thought it was a bad idea. We met later, however, and talked about it. He had derived the idea based on a need in the market, and while it was not the best idea, it evolved into something we could use and implement in our current product line. In the end, he was excited to have his idea considered, and I was happy to have a new product feature that did not require additional development.

It is not necessarily a bad idea to say "no" to more things than "yes," but allow you and your team time to digest new ideas and refine them through discussion. Even if you decide to forego a new product or service, you will always have the idea in the back of your brain for future reference. More important, it will encourage creativity among your team.

What do you think? Before you say "bad idea," allow yourself some time to digest this column, then add your feedback in the comments section below.

Related: 5 Tricks To Brainstorm Like It's Your Job

Peter Gasca

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Management and Entrepreneur Consultant

Peter Gasca is an author and consultant at Peter Paul Advisors. He also serves as Executive-in-Residence and Director of the Community and Business Engagement Institute at Coastal Carolina University. His book, One Million Frogs', details his early entrepreneurial journey.

Related Topics

Business News

Police: 82-Year-Old Woman Found Alive at New York Funeral Home After Being Pronounced Dead

The woman was found breathing almost three hours after she was pronounced dead.

Innovation

The Greasy, Glamorous Rise of Mascara

You won't believe the grimy gunk people used to smear on their eyelashes -- and still do.

Business News

An NFL Rookie Scores a $514,000 Jackpot in Las Vegas

Los Angeles Rams running back Ronnie Rivers sat down to play 3-card poker and left a half million dollars richer.

Business News

Plane Makes Emergency Landing When Fire Breaks Out After Takeoff, 4 Hospitalized

United Flight 2664 was grounded shortly after takeoff after a passenger's external battery pack went up in flames.

Collaboration

4 Tips to Coexisting Peacefully With a Business Partner

The multiplication of talents is the most crucial part of the partnership. Here's a breakdown of how to effectively manage a business partnership, even when it gets tough.