Three Reasons People Reject Creative Ideas… and Three Things You Can Do About It

No by sboneham used under Creative Commons License
We have all experienced it. You have a great idea but it’s rejected by your colleagues, your boss or your CEO.

Rejection is common. While most people admire creative individuals, entrepreneurs or writers they can find it difficult to back a creative idea.

Why is that?

Here are three reasons why people reject novel ideas and three things you can do to help get your ideas adopted.



Creative ideas are novel. They may not be practical, free from errors or easily executed. Creative ideas provoke feelings of uncertainty and the risk of failure.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Most people are strongly motivated to reduce uncertainty or, better still, avoid in completely.


Taking a creative idea and making it real can be a lot of work. You may have to get funding, solve technical challenges and put in the hours to turn it into reality. People often prefer to choose the energy saving option: Do nothing.

Implicit Bias

Psychologists have shown that when we face uncertainty even people who have no explicit bias against creativity will choose a more practical solution over a more creative one.

The effect of this implicit bias against creativity is that when there’s a chance of failure most people opt for a practical, tried and tested solution, rather than the novel idea.

Organisations sometimes use experts or gate keepers to reduce uncertainty, to identify the best or the most accurate idea. These gatekeepers often take the most practical idea, the one that is closest to what they already know, and the more novel ideas are rejected.

Novelty, workload and implicit bias often combine. Newer, more novel ideas, create greater uncertainty and require more work to be successful. This ‘cumulative effect’ can make less innovative, more practical, ideas seem much more attractive.


How to generate more acceptance for your ideas

  1. Show the idea is not a threat.
    Try to combine the conventional with the radical.
    Know when (and with whom) to emphasise the conventional and downplay the radical.
  2. Provide evidence to support the idea.
    Provide evidence that other people have successfully used similar approaches.
    Show the gain is worth the ‘cost’ – not just the financial cost but the psychological cost, the effort to make the change.
    Tell stories to illustrate how much better the future will be for everyone after the innovation is implemented.
  3. Build in practicality.
    Propose sort, inexpensive, proof of concepts that will demonstrate whether key aspects of the idea will work. These reduce the risk and cost of failure. They should get you to a Go / No Go decision quickly .
    Take a portfolio approach. Run several projects. Or better still, several proof of concept projects. Run some radical innovation initiatives at the same time as other projects that are lower-risk, incremental innovations.

Original image courtesy of sboneham, used under a Creative Commons license


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