How to persevere beyond the ‘no’ when proposing ideas for new futures

People say no to new ideas because the new ideas do not fit what is current and understandable.  What exists is easy; change requires an effort.

People say no at the drop of a hat, without thinking.  It’s a knee jerk reaction (see the exercise below the table for an example).

Creativity = new ideas, new decisions and new actions. For progress to be made you need all three. Perseverance to navigate through the objections and cautions when new ways of proceeding are offered is also required.


Below are comebacks to people who say no. Theses are guides for presenting and persevering with notions you really like and want to see come to fruition.

Idea response Come back statement
It’s too risky. True, new ideas and projects are inherently risky. Here are the steps we’ve taken to cut the risk. For example, we’re spreading the work among partners…
We have tried that already. Here’s what’s different now. The context is different (give evidence), the technology is more developed (show how).
It does not fit with our culture. One aspect of our challenge in adapting to and creating a new future is to consider ways to do things differently. This idea fits with our commitment to …
That’s not how we do things. As a result of our moving into new areas, we will be faced with the need to adapt practices. We believe we can manage this change by taking these steps…
We’re not ready for that. Lets’ talk about specific aspects of the proposal that you feel we’re not ready for and see how we might address them.
We have no time for that sort of thing. Yes, there are always competing priorities and time demands. We’ll certainly rely on your guidance. We believe our proposal merits time for these reasons…
It’s a good idea in a few years time, now it’s too far out. Yes, it usually takes a few years for a new proposal to come to fruition. We propose a strategic prototype project that will keep costs low and enable us to learn before making a more real move.
Let’s get on with the business at hand. We appreciate the need to focus on the present, and here’s our plan from the present moment forward.
Next level of management will never go for it. We’re hoping today to enlist your support in making the case with us to the next level of management. We’d like to discuss specific concerns that you feel they will have.

With thanks to the University of Houston, College of Technology Foresight from which this list was adapted.


Here’s an exercise for you and your team to become aware of how often ‘no’ is a typical response.

Take inventory of the extent to which your own “No” reflex dominates your life. Notice for 24 hours (even in your dreams) how often you say or think:

“That’s not right.”
“I don’t like them.”
“I don’t agree with that.”
“They don’t like me.”
“That should be different from what it is.”

Then retrain yourself to say “YES” at least 51 percent of the time. Start the transformation by saying “YES” aloud 22 times right now.

How might you leverage this activity to build an innovation friendly environment?

This exercise appears in Rob Breszny’s Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.


Marci Segal, MS

Freeing leaders’ thinking so they can create new futures.