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How to Say No to an Idea

Declining an idea is never easy, but it is an essential part of running an idea program. In an ideal system, you would be getting a steady stream of ideas all the time. While some ideas will be gems that have all the right ingredients, a lot of ideas will need a little more work.

Before saying an unequivocal “no,” start by seeing if the idea needs some creative thinking to implement it:

  1. Does the solution or idea already exist?
    Many of the ideas that are submitted will likely already have an existing solution that the employee just does not know about. Take this opportunity to thank the submitter for their idea and share the solution that exists. End the email with a call-to-action for more ideas!
  2. Are there any other similar ideas?
    If you are not using idea software, it can be difficult to filter out duplicate ideas. It is worth the time to check your idea tracker to find out if you have received any similar ideas with similar topics. Many similar ideas indicates that there is a true need for the idea and that it really resonates with the community.
  3. Is the idea aligned to strategic goals?
    If the idea is aligned to organizational priorities, leaders will be more likely to support it and even give you more resources to accomplish it. So if the idea is important to both leaders and the community, you should seriously consider trying to implement it. If the idea is almost aligned but not quite, you should still consider executing the idea or perhaps modifying it accordingly.
  4. What are the blocks to implementing the idea?
    Before we get into problem solving, we need to identify the key blocks to implementing the idea. Is there not enough time, not enough capacity, or not enough resources to execute the idea? Is the idea almost aligned? What is the true need behind the idea?
  5. Problem solving
    Perhaps the most challenging task is to overcome these blocks. Find out how big of an obstacle these blocks are. Now is the time to tap into your creative problem solving skills to address what the real problem is and how to overcome it if possible.
  6. If the blocks are too big or you just do not have the resources right now—decline
    You have channeled thoughts from your peers, evaluated the idea for as long as you can, and you have determined the idea is just not feasible. Here is how to respond to the employee who sent the idea:

How to Decline an Idea

There are three parts to declining an idea:

  1. Positive Acknowledgement
    Firstly we want to thank and acknowledge the individual for taking time out of their day to help make the organization better. Starting on a positive note helps reduce the probability of disengagement.
  2. Explanation
    The explanation should include all the steps you took to evaluate the idea and why, at this time, you will not be pursuing the idea.
  3. Call to Action
    You should end the response with a call to action encouraging employees to continue submitting their ideas. Reinforce that their ideas are valuable to the organization and that you look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

Harness the power of employee ideas.