No Clay Pigeon Shooting

For many years in brainstorming sessions, Clay Pigeon Shooting was used as a metaphor for negativity towards new ideas. After Peter Wilson’s Olympic success, it’s time for a new metaphor

Clay Pigeon Shooting as a discipline had its day of glory at the London Olympics [August 2nd 2012]. I watched the unfolding of the Double Bore shooting, its formal title, with interest. Team GB celebrated the victory and gold medal earned by dead-eye Peter Wilson.

Clay Pigeons and Creative Ideas

Participants in brainstorming, as well as students passing through programmes for stimulating creativity will maybe remember the injunction “No Clay Pigeon Shooting”. It was used as a metaphor to counteract the widespread tendency for people to shoot down new ideas before they [the ideas] were given a chance to fly.

“Have you ever been in a meeting” the trainer would ask “and the moment a new idea was suggested, everyone else would raise their guns and blast it out of the air?” When everyone agreed (they usually did) the trainer would enlarge a little on the sport of Clay Pigeon Shooting, finishing with the words “So remember, in brainstorming, there’s ‘No Clay Pigeon Shooting’ … give ideas a chance to fly.”

Killer Phrases

The metaphor was offered part of a process of sensitizing participants in team training to the heinous practice of premature evaluation. Lists of killer phrases were compiled:

“that will never work”
“it will cost too much”
“not the sort of idea for our organization”
“too risky”

Yes But

The mother of all killer phrases on our courses was “Yes But”. I am still an advocate for encouraging team members to convert “Yes Buts” into more constructive ways of thinking about an idea. “Yes But that’s too dangerous” is worth reframing as “Yes And if we did this it could reduce the risks substantially without killing the basic idea”.

Don’t be negative about Clay Pigeon Shooting

Yesterday’s triumphant day at the Olympics for Peter Wilson suggests a need for a different metaphor to encourage team creativity. Suggestions welcomed.

Historical footnote

In the Paris Olympics of 1900, real pigeons were realeased. The Olympic family quickly spotted the incenveniences of the contest, not least to the pigeons. After some Yes Anding, the modern version developed. In another enlightned advance, cardboard animals were provided for shooters in the 1908 Olympics.

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