7 Reasons No One Likes Your Ideas


You’re in a meeting and a seemingly brilliant idea enters your mind. Adrenaline starts to rush. You imagine what wonderful things might happen if your idea is executed. You can’t wait to interject.

“Wait a second. I just had an idea.”

Everybody stops and gives you their attention as you breathlessly explain the epiphany you just experienced. Maybe you rambled a little or reached a little for examples and metaphors, but the idea was brought to the table. That’s enough for you.

You finish and wait for the plaudits. The room is quiet. It takes a while for people to absorb brilliance. Someone begins to speak.

His words aren’t coated in appreciation and wonder. They’re hardened by skepticism and disinterest. Others echo his sentiment. Soon the conversation moves on and your idea has been brushed off the table onto the floor, soon to be sucked into the vacuum of time and forgotten.

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. Some of us seem to live there. Your idea seemed so exciting and valid in your mind. Now it is worthless.

Why didn’t anyone else like your idea?
Here are a few reasons ideas aren’t accepted:

1. You took a leap, but didn’t build a bridge.
Our minds wander down paths and make leaps from one idea to the next very quickly. Your idea makes perfect sense to you because of the path you followed internally. If you don’t take everyone else down that path, it probably won’t make sense to them.

2. Your idea had no tether.
Your idea may be exciting, but if it isn’t tied to the purpose, budget and/or deadline… it’s floating away like a helium balloon without a string. See more on this in my post about Paper Airplanes and Kites.

3. You told a song.
Some ideas just can’t be spoken. They have to be experienced differently. You might need music or an illustration. Concepts for TV often need storyboards. Print ideas may need a layout sketch. Don’t expect people to see or hear what is in your head. Make it real to them.

4. You have no relational equity.
Maybe you’re new and need to “earn your stripes.” Perhaps they don’t like you. Do you have a track record for presenting poor ideas? This is a big and difficult hurdle to cross. Find someone with relational equity and get them to champion your idea.

5. You tossed an egg instead of a bird.
You tossed it out there too early. Given time, it would have flown. Instead, it simply splattered on the floor. Unless you have a VERY forgiving environment, a premature idea won’t survive. Be more patient.

6. Too many thorns around the rose.
Maybe it was a good idea, but when criticism arose, you got defensive. Maybe you didn’t show any flexibility when suggestions were offered. Be willing to give in to peripheral changes like colors or fonts (unless it really does kill the idea). Even consider more drastic changes. Considering them doesn’t mean you have to allow them. If they can’t touch or smell the rose without a prick, they won’t appreciate it as much.

7. You assumed you knew it all.
This is a huge mistake that happens way too often. Don’t be presumptuous. Maybe your idea has been tried before. Maybe there’s more information that would help you come up with better ideas. Perhaps your idea won’t work, but be willing to let it bring new ideas out of others. You don’t have to CREATE all the ideas, just RECOGNIZE the good ones.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the ones I encounter most often. Hope this helps you next time you think no one likes your ideas.

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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37 thoughts on “7 Reasons No One Likes Your Ideas

  1. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Chris, I think like I write. I’m learning to feel free and talk this way. It’s fun to see the light bulbs go off when people ‘get it.’

    johnmoore, good to hear from you again. I’m honored to have you hijack any of my stuff. 🙂

  2. This hit really close to home for me. I find myself taking leaps without building bridges sometimes, but never could really acknowledge what I was doing wrong. It often feels taking aim and throwing a dart but missing by a mile. Thank you for honing in on this.

  3. Although I am a first time visitor, I will certainly be returning.

    I love your writing style. Poetic. And your 7 reasons are brilliant. What I like is that you don’t say the idea is bad or that the people in the room are bad, but rather the process for introducing the idea might be bad.

    My favorites are #1 and #3. The “story” in our head makes perfect sense. Unfortunately it rarely gets communicated properly. It’s why great books don’t necessarily make great movies.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Just want to let you know I got to your blog via innovationtools.com, a site I monitor re: innovation (work-related). Great post; this is the story of my life. I’m going to print this out and post it in my office. Thanks for the simple and direct summation!

  5. I’m also a first time visitor but found your post quite thought provoking and have subscribed to your feed. Your seven tips are brilliant and I’ll be referring to this post shortly to share the excellent info. Thanks!

  6. I love the pictures you paint with words. It made me wonder about the egg I tossed out yesterday. Maybe next time I can let the poor thing gestate and throw it out only when it has the possibility to fly.

  7. An excellent summary of what can wrong in presenting an idea. If you don’t mind I would like to add one more. Sometimes ideas that are buried in metaphors, diagrams and someone else’s ‘personal equity’ will ensure that the audience loses sight of the true idea. Be careful not to over gild the lily

  8. Thanks all for adding to the conversation.

    Steven, good thoughts. It’s perfectly possible the idea is poor or the people are problematic. That happens. More time than not, as you said, the process is where the breakdown occurs. Many great ideas are wrapped in ugly packages.

    Christina, I like your idea of hanging the list in your office. As you tell others it is a reminder to you, hopefully it also will serve as a guide for your visitors.

    Raven, thanks for subscribing to my feed and for your kind post on your blog.

    Belinda, glad to hear you took this to heart. Write back if you have an example of this helping you in the future.

    Gary, THANKS for adding to the list. Of course I don’t mind. Good, salient point. Some ideas are strong enough to stand on their own merit. My guess is we tend to overestimate the acceptability of our ideas, but in the moments where the raw concept is most powerful, we shouldn’t attempt to dress it to be cute.

  9. What if your idea is presented wonderfully to an audience interested in innovation, gets first price by public voting, but then is rejected by top management some five levels up – people you never see – because they have other priorities? Personal presentation and negotiating skills have nothing to do with that. Preparation has something to do with it, certainly. But sometimes you don’t have (or do not want to take) years for getting an idea through to the people who have the mandate to decide. I hope you can help me with this.

  10. Mirteille,

    First of all, I’m sorry you’ve gone through such a frustrating experience. I hope you are able to overcome these hurdles.

    Not being intimately familiar with your situation and the politics apparently at play, I’m a bit short-handed. Keep that in mind.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Find the highest-level individual to champion your idea. See if you can find someone with affinity for your idea who also can be persuasive in influencing the true decision-makers (since you said you can’t reach them yourself).

    2. Is your idea big enough that people around you would help create a task squad to develop it further? Can you prototype it? Is it worth putting some of your money behind creating a prototype?

    I’m assuming you can’t take your idea elsewhere. Sounds like it was entered into some sort of contest, which may have relegated it to being someone else’s intellectual property. If that’s the case, maybe you can buy it back for pennies of what it’s really worth.

    Hope something in here helps.

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  12. I like this list. Of course you are saying don’t just blurt it out, do some homework first!

    One point: on reading the responses I saw women saying their ideas were not heard. That’s a common experience for women. It may be about how they present their ideas & for all the reasons you list. It may also be because they are women. Some women may also recognize the experience of hearing their ideas repeated (and accepted) at a later time, and by men.

  13. Jennifer,

    Great points! There is a gender dynamic at play sometimes. It is a legitimate hurdle in some (many) environments. I don’t think it is a hurdle which can’t be leaped. I’ll see if I can find more on this. Probably a topic for its own discussion.

  14. Great to see Dustin. I am a first time visitor, but certainly like to material. In our household we speak of randomness when we forget to build the bridge. Learning to build my bridge almost everytime is something I know I need to do. Great to see that I’m not the only victim of this.

  15. Jodie,

    Thanks for your comments. As you can probably guess, this list comes out of personal experiences – sometimes as the presenter, sometimes as recipient.

    So, many of these are lessons I re-learn as I am continually promoting ideas. It’s easy to forget in the daily grind.

    I hope you continue to contribute to the blog. More is to come!

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  18. “relational equity”? Interesting. Never heard that one before. I don’t know about others, but I seem to be the most persuasive when I can go back to my office and hone an idea and put it on paper. That gives me a chance to figure out the weak spots and address them, as well as adding key points and credibility that I might have skipped during the rush to throw the idea on the table. Plus I don’t know that I always present well verbally without some prep time.