Since 1986, I have asked 10,000 people where and when they get their best ideas.
Less than 2% have said “the workplace.”
Based on my 25 years of working with a ton of innovation-seeking organizations, here’s my interpretation WHY:
1. Too much to do, not enough time.
2. Too many distractions and interruptions.
3. Constantly changing priorities.
4. Sleep deprivation.
5. Mental clutter.
6. Fear that someone will steal your idea.
7. You don’t think of yourself as creative.
8. Boring meetings that put you in a bad mood.
9. You’re not measured for the quantity or quality of ideas you generate.
10. Stultifying routine.
11. You are worried about layoffs and don’t want to draw undue attention to yourself.
12. Poor ventilation — not enough oxygen.
13. The last time you came up with a great idea, you were either ignored or ridiculed.
14. It’s not in your job description.
15. It’s not in the strategic plan.
16. It’s not in the cards.
17. It’s not in the Bible.
18. Your manager has made it clear that he/she does not have the time to consider your ideas.
19. Lack of immersion. Lack of incubation.
20. No one’s ever told you that they want your ideas.
21. You are understaffed and don’t have the time to try an innovative approach.
22. You are angry at the company.
23. You get no input from people outside your department.
24. Your company has just been acquired and you don’t want your new overlord to succeed.
25. You know there’s no one to pitch your new ideas to — and even if there was, it’s a long shot they would listen.
26. You’re concerned that your great idea is so great that it will actually be accepted and then you will be expected to work on it in your spare time (which you don’t have) with no extra resources made available to you.
27. All your great ideas are focused on trying to get Gina or Gary, in Marketing, to give you the time of day.
28. You’re a new parent.
29. You’ve got other projects, outside of work, and have no energy left to think about anything else.
30. They don’t pay you enough to think creatively.
31. You’re expected to leave your mind at the door when you come to work.
32. No incentives or rewards.
33. You don’t have the intrinsic motivation .
34. Actually, you don’t want to be working at all — and you wouldn’t be working if the financial meltdown didn’t happen.
35. You have not identified a challenge or opportunity that inspires you enough to think up new ideas.
36. No timely feedback from others.
37. There’s no one to collaborate with.
38. You work in a risk averse organization.
39. “Work,” for you is synonymous with things you have to do not want to do, thus creating two parallel universes that never intersect.
40. You haven’t read my award winning book yet.
41. It’s too noisy.
42. Endless hustle and bustle.
43. You can’t stop thinking about new ways to improve your Match.com profile.
44. You’re too busy tweeting.
45. You have the attention span of a tse tse fly.
46. Just when a good idea pops into your head, you dismiss it as “not good enough”.
47. Your left brain has become a kind of Attila the Hun in relation to your Pee Wee Herman-like right brain.
48. You didn’t get the memo.
49. You are too busy deleting spam.
50. The brainstorming sessions you attend are pitiful.
51. You believe that new ideas are a dime a dozen.
52. You’re not paid to think. You’re paid to DO.
53. Actually, you don’t have a job.
54. You are hypoglycemic.
55. You’re not allowed to listen to music at your desk.
56. You have no sense of urgency.
57. Your office or cubicle feels like a jail cell.
58. You’re too busy filling out forms.
59. Not enough coffee.
60. Drugs are not allowed in the workplace.
61. Existential despair.
62. There’s a call on Line 2.
63. You have no time to incubate or reflect.
64. You’ve got to show results fast.
65. You know your boss will, eventually, get all the credit for your great ideas.
66. You’ve just been assigned to another project.
67. Brain fatigue.
68. You haven’t tried Free the Genie yet.
69. You don’t feel valued or appreciated.
70. You deciphered a much talked about sighting of a Crop Circle in England as meaning: “Stop coming up with good ideas at work.”
71. Every extra minute you have is spent on Facebook.
72. There’s too much stress and pressure on the job.
73. Naysayers and idea killers surround you.
74. Inability to relax.
75. It’s summertime.
76. You’ve got this weird rash on your leg and you think it might be Lyme’s disease or leprosy.
77. What you think of as a great idea and what your manager thinks of as a great idea are two entirely different things.
78. You know you won’t get the funding, so why bother?
79. You’re just trying to get through the day.
80. Every time you get a great idea, it’s time to go to another meeting.
81. You only get your great ideas in the shower and there are no showers at work.
82. Your head is filled with a thousand things you need to do.
83. Relentless deadlines.
84. Too much input from others.
85. You have to stay focused on the “job at hand”.
86. You’ll only end up making the company richer and that is not what you want to do.
87. Those bright, annoying, overhead fluorescent lights.
88. No one besides you really cares.
89. You’ve just been assigned a project that is boring the hell out of you.
90. There is no one to brainstorm with.
91. Your husband/wife is complaining that all you ever do is work — or talk about work.
92. No alcohol.
93. Your cultural upbringing has taught you that it is not your place to conjure up new ideas.
94. Your job is too structured to think outside the box.
95. People seem to be staring at you and that makes you self-conscious.
96. You’re too busy complaining about the organization.
97. Wait! How come they’re taking so much out of your paycheck?
98. You’re only working there to beef up your resume for the next job.
99. A vast right wing conspiracy.
100. You actually believe the preceding 99 reasons are true.
A big thank you to Jim Aubele, Fran Tyson-Marchino, Nirit Sharon, Cindy Pearce, Robert Fischaleck, Deborah Medenbach, Amy de Boinville, Glenna Dumay, Bert Dromedary, and Sally Kaiser for their contributions to this list.
Mitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions and the author of “Awake at the Wheel”, as well as the very popular Heart of Innovation blog.