How to Be a Good Audience to Creativity

Hitchhiking on Seth Godin: What it takes to ensure creativity gets heard in your workplace.


The first line of today’s Seth Godin is priceless: "Creativity loves a problem, but it hates a lousy audience."

No question, it is difficult being a great audience to creative ideas when the bad times hit and when everyone around you is playing the “ain’t it awful" game.

When you're playing defense, it’s hard to listen up for the new end-around, flea-flicker, Hail Mary pass. “We’re playing DEE-FENSE here!” they all say.

Unless you're watching only infomercials and funny YouTube videos, you can’t escape the negative energy and attitudes, most obviously from the media, but now even from bosses and other leaders. Misery loves a bandwagon.

But if you are about to hear a creative idea, here’s what you can do to be a great audience, and not a lousy one:

1. Pay attention. Give the idea generator and the idea itself your rapt attention.

2. Don’t let the person presenting the idea determine its worth.

3. Don’t interrupt--let the presenter’s enthusiasm rock and roll.

4. Encourage the enthusiasm verbally and non-verbally. It is, after all, contagious.

5. Never say “but.”

6. Always say “and.”

7. Resist leapfrogging to your own better idea.

8. Internally, talk about the ideas and presenters with near-reverence.

9. Understand that these ideas come out during formal new product development meetings and, randomly, in the hallway--from the most unlikely sources.

10. Don’t worry what your competitors might do, worry about the two guys in a garage. What could they do with this idea?

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at or at


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