Hu-mor-ous ba-zoo-ka (hew’mer-us be-zoo’ka), n. 1. a funny, witty comment that, intentionally or unintentionally, shoots down another person’s idea. 2. innovation killer
Think back to the last brainstorming session in which you participated, where the goal was to come up with innovative ideas for your business. How many creative ideas were put forth for the group’s consideration? How many of those really new ones survives the barrage of negativity and doubt that usually greets new concepts? And, of the ideas that did survive, how many have been implemented for are still moving in that direction? Very likely, few made it into development and fewer still—if any—actually are on their way to market. You’ve got the creativity part down; you just haven’t learned how to be innovative!
If your company is typical, I’ll wager that plenty of good ideas surfaces during the brainstorming but few, if any, of the truly breakthrough ones made it out of the room alive. Most of the truly new ideas were probably shot down with a barrage of humorous bazookas—the act of shooting down another’s idea with a witty barb.
This tendency to lob verbal grenades at new ideas has been and still remains so pervasive that I coined the term The Bazooka Syndrome in 1982, when I first began my career as a creative problem-solving facilitator. Every time I have described this behavior to a new group of people, it has hit a responsive chord. Everyone instantly identifies with The Bazooka Syndrome because we have all been hit by these verbal missiles. And most people will also admit, with shamed faces, that they have been guilty of using bazookas on the ideas of others (colleagues, spouses, kids, family, and friends).
The Bazooka Syndrome captures what we unintentionally, but instinctively, do to new ideas. We make fun of them. We point out every single problem. We end up annihilating them. We point out every single problem. We end up annihilating them, all in the spirit of constructive flaw-finding and, allegedly, idea improvement.
For creative people who are good at generating fresh ideas, being hit by a bazooka blast is enormously discouraging. Frustration abounds in organizations that are skilled at dreaming up new ideas yet ineffective at protecting them from the bazooka wielders that exist everywhere.
It’s very discouraging to watch competitors successfully launch innovations based on ideas you tossed around but failed to pursue because you were gunned down by a bazooka. Are the phrases “Gee, we thought of that months (or years!) ago” and “we tried that but couldn’t make it work” commonly heard within the walls of your organization? If so, your company is undoubtedly populated by bazooka experts and, as a result, is short on innovation.