"We tried that before."
This follows the naysayer's adage, "If at first you don't succeed...drop it!" When this Killer Phrase is used, the speaker usually means:

That's been done to death.
They've been coming up with that one for years.
I've heard that one a million times.
Not that again.

What to Do About It
Dissecting this sentence helps to uncover the root cause of this Killer Phrase.

"We." Who was "we"? Were they empowered to succeed? Did they have adequate resources? At one time, some people in the organization believed in this idea. Rekindle that support and show that with backing, additional knowledge and new circumstances, the idea can succeed this time.

"Tried." How hard did they try? For how long? Compare current and past situations to show that it is time for another try.

"That." True, something about your idea sounds familiar – but probably not identical. Find similarities and differences. Highlight the new twists in your idea. Take advantage of past learning to strengthen your approach.

"Before." When? Under what circumstances? Demonstrate that conditions have changed, offering an entirely new arena for the idea. Listen for conditions that haven't changed and may hinder your idea's success. Look for ways to change or adapt to them.

Tips For Leaders
Be careful, especially with new employees, not to greet every new idea with "We've tried that before." – even if you have. Try adding open-ended questions, such as "What did we learn from that before?" and "How have circumstances changed?"

About the Author
Chic Thompson

Chic Thompson's passion is inspiring executives, MBA students and children to think "out-of-the-box" while problem solving. He’s the president of the Creative Management Group and received his BS in Chemistry from the University of Delaware and his MEd from the University of Virginia. He has worked in new product development and marketing for W.L. Gore and Associates (Gore-Tex®), Johnson & Johnson and Walt Disney.

In 1984, Chic developed the What a Great Idea! Workshop to help foster a mindset of continuous innovation in everyday life. Each year, Chic presents over 100 keynote addresses or workshops from Sydney to Cannes to Dallas. For more information on the What a Great Idea! Workshop or any of Chic’s books, visit www.whatagreatidea.com.

Go to Killer Phrase #2 "If it ain't broke..."
Go to Killer Phrase #3
"We've always done it this way."
Go to Killer Phrase #4
"I'll get back to you."
Go to Killer Phrase #5
"It'll NEVER Work."
Go to Killer Phrase #6
Go to Killer Phrase #7
"Great idea, but not for us."
Go to Killer Phrase #8
"Do you realize the paper work it will create."
Go to Killer Phrase #9
"It isn't your responsibility."
Go to Killer Phrase #10
"We tried that before."

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