No shooting down: finding value in every idea

By Anna Scandella, April 18, 2018

Digital Product Designer at Pocketworks, app development specialists.

Happening At Pocketworks Streamlining Customer Experiences 

We kill ideas before they have time to breathe

Healthy communication habits are essential for any team that needs to develop good ideas. In a world where industries are being disrupted overnight, good ideas are more essential than ever if you want to stay in business.

The problem is, people unconsciously kill ideas before they have time to flourish. The main reason is this: people shoot ideas down based on a few minor flaws. Disputing the small details leads to discrediting the entire idea.

Don’t fall into the ‘clash’ trap

As explained in De Bono’s Thinking Course, the main reason for this is the ‘clash’ system. The clash system is where people approach communication with incorrect belief the that one view has to win over the other.

We convince ourselves that the better view is the only one that will emerge from a clash. In an attempt to save our own ideas, we put way too much effort in destroying someone else’s.

This is a trap. With a little training you can look to explore, combine and grow ideas rather than pitching them against each other in a head-to-head fight.

The ‘clash’ system discourages idea sharing

One of the worst side-effects of this habit is that people become afraid of speaking up. They fear the shame of being judged. As you can imagine, this leads to a drastic reduction of ideas developed and shared.

Bad news if you’re a team that needs lots of good ideas.

Criticism is the cheapest form of thinking

It is also important to remember that criticism is very easy to do; it is one of the cheapest forms of thinking. Negative criticism is also very attractive because, as humans, we feel like proving someone else wrong somehow proves us right. It strokes our egos.

To tackle this, it is vital that we develop creative and constructive communication habits, and in turn nurture stronger ideas.

How to fix this?

First of all, we need to listen more. Then we need to stop judging at every stage. This means practicing suspended judgement. We also need to accept possibilities and pull out the valuable bits of each side of the argument.

De Bono suggests one tool to achieve this. It’s called EBS – Explore Both Sides.

Explore both sides

EBS is an attention-directing tool that lets you examine the territory in a constructive way.

  • You consider both sides of the argument.
  • You remain neutral as you switch focus from one point of view to the other.

Doing this allows you to understand where each of the ideas are coming from and what is their value.

Practice Agreement, Disagreement and Irrelevance

If you can do EBS, you will open up the possibility of exploring ADI – Agreement, Disagreement and Irrelevance.

To practice ADI:

  • Note the areas of agreement of the two ideas
  • Then note areas of disagreement
  • Finally identify areas of irrelevance.

Doing this, you would likely find out that there are more areas of agreement than disagreement. And because you highlight the areas of conflict, it’s easier to find a way around just those areas.

Achieving healthier communications and stronger ideas

Practising these exercises can help you massively in the long run. People will start to look at brainstorming in a different way. They will consider other people’s points of view independently of their personal “logic bubble”.

There will be no shooting down. Instead, each different idea would have a chance to survive and grow. You will find at least one point of agreement to start from. And then you can start combining ideas and strengthening them.



De Bono’s Thinking Course, Google Books. (2018). De Bono’s Thinking Course. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Apr. 2018].