Are people laughing at your idea? Good!


If you are finding yourself in a similar situation, keep going because you are onto something! You might need to tweak your approach slightly in order to be successful and to create the impact you have in mind. That’s exactly what this post will be about. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that an/your idea had a lot of merit, but that you seemed to be the only person seeing its potential? A feeling coming from your gut and shouting to you that you should cling onto this idea because there is more than meets the eye.  Well, I certainly have and let me tell you, giving up on the idea was probably the easiest thing to do, but also the worst! Some of the most renowned leaders who changed the world did so by trusting their gut feeling. For instance, it’s well known that Steve Jobs wasn’t keen on relying on consumer research, but rather followed his intuition. This ability allowed him to revolutionize several industries through developing disruptive innovations. One of my favorite quotes is from Henri Ford – “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. This quote nicely outlines that you need to grow and strengthen your intuitive thinking abilities.

I have been in situations where people laughed at my idea and this is often an idea killer, but I started treating this as a good sign. Laughter can actually be a sign of insecurity and as a result it often kills an idea before it is properly explored. Sometimes an idea can be so far fetched for some that they start laughing, as they don’t know how to behave differently in this situation. This behavior however has a significant impact on the idea generator as it could stop him/her to pursue the idea and never really get to the full potential of it.

Another form of laughter that kills ideas is mockery. This usually stems from people’s past experiences perhaps combined with some level of arrogance. Don’t get me wrong, experience is needed and is valuable, but when looking at fresh and new ideas they can immediately kill them as well. Why does that happen? Simple, through our experiences we become more efficient in our judgment calls and that’s exactly where it goes wrong. We bank upon our past experiences as a given and so this creates the blind spots. Let me clarify this. You might have tried a similar or exact idea in the past and it turned out to be unsuccessful or not living up to its promise. Where this experience makes us go blind is that we assume that the conditions or context from past idea have remained unchanged versus the conditions/context from the new idea, whereas in reality this might have changed dramatically.

As I said before, experience is great, but watch out for the personal biases coming out of this experience as they create the blind spots that could immediately kill great ideas. You should always stop and question yourself, before making a judgment call, whether the context has changed or not. It is a fact that the environment around us is changing at an astronomical speed, so chances are that the conditions and variables have changed as well.  After all, change is the only constant and it is infinite. Therefore we need to remain flexible to revisit some of the past ideas or allow the new ideas to be explored.

So when somebody laughs at your idea, start asking questions, probe and observe because you are onto something! Ask questions to get a better understanding about where the initial laughing reaction comes from and why. Observe the non-verbal communication, as this too will reveal whether the laughter is related to discomfort or mockery. Process every bit of information that you are gathering to understand the laughter so that you can adjust you approach and communication around how to present your idea in a different and more impactful way going forward.

For this to happen, it’s important to look at the essence or DNA of the idea. Identify what truly makes this idea special and extract exactly this piece of information. This will allow you to present the idea in different ways ensuring it to become more resonating, tangible, real and perhaps more realistic for those that struggle seeing the added value or not sharing your gut feel. Once you have been able to extract the DNA from the idea, you’ll be able to shape the idea in many different ways, without loosing the essence of the idea itself. It’s exactly that core essence that made your gut feel go ballistic and that encouraged you to not give up on the original idea.

Butter Stick ( Kenji Kawakami )

Butter Stick ( Kenji Kawakami )

Let me give you an example of an idea that could be mocked or laughed at. Inventor Kenji Kawakami, one of the practitioners of Chindogu – a Japanese movement that plays with concepts – created a butter stick similar to a glue stick. For many this might be far fetched, but let’s try to distill the core essence of this idea. Obviously the idea is about spreading butter, but compared to spreading butter with a knife, this creation does it in a way that does not require any additional tools. So one could conclude that the essence of this idea is about convenience or in other words to quickly spread butter. When looking at the concept or idea, it may not be something that would immediately appeal to us to be used at breakfast or in our kitchen, but let’s ask ourselves some additional questions. Where would speed of action and convenience in terms of buttering bread or other food play an important role? If I would look at catering for instance, for which speed of action and efficiency could play an important role, this idea could actually have a lot of promise. So by distilling the core essence of the idea, you will be able to find alternative ways to present it and make it more comprehensive/resonating and perhaps real for your audience. It will definitely enable you to create more impact with your ideas.

So next time somebody laughs at your idea, take it as a good sign and try to understand why. Don’t let it stop you, but let it become a motivator. 

Use your creativity

As always, I would love to hear/read your stories on how you’ve been able to get support for your ideas that might have been wacky at first glance. In the end, we can all learn from each other’s experiences!

In the meantime, go and use your creative juices and increase your personal creative impact!



© Niels Chabot, Nutz & Creative