Maybe it was just the group I rode bicycles with, but they called the slowest person on the group ride the “LIMFAC.” It was short for “limiting factor.” The group as a courtesy did not want to leave the last person behind, but the faster people were aware of the fact that one slow person might slow down the whole group.

There are all sorts of LIMFACs in organizations, but there are two very common ones that deserve particular attention because they kill the lifeblood of organizations: new ideas. One LIMFAC can be seen pretty clearly, the other one is not so obvious. I call these two types of LIMFACs Squelchers and Free Spirits.

Squelchers slow down the flow of ideas because they say “no” to everything. This can be for a number of reasons including:

  • not being open to the opinions of others
  • not liking the notion that new systems may disrupt their current systems
  • being too controlling
  • not being able to accept new facts or knowledge

One of my clients calls people that never want to try new things the “by God boys” because they say things like “by God we’ve been doing it just fine for the last 20 years, why should I change??”

If you have a Squelcher who is a leader in you organization, you can expect ideas to be shot down regularly and the people that may have offered them to either stop offering ideas or take their ideas with them to some other organization.

Leaders like this would benefit from more openness.

Free Spirits can also be damaging to new ideas, it’s just not as obvious. A Free Spirit will be very open to ideas and encourage people to “go for it.” Going for it will work sometimes, ASSUMING the idea is much more than half-baked. If the idea is not well thought out, the idea may fail in implementation, cause issues with other departments, compete with other initiatives for time and attention, or fail to live up to the promise.

Free Spirits hurt new ideas because they say “yes” too quick. This can be for a number of reasons including:

  • Desire to be seen as a good boss
  • Not wanting to disappoint people
  • Holding the assumption that they can ONLY get in the way of ideas, not help them along

If you have a Free Spirit who is a leader in your organization, you can expect a good deal of wasted effort and unintended consequences.

Leaders like this would benefit from more structure. More structure can be as simple as knowing the steps of how to bring ideas to fruition or knowing how to have conversations with people that will make ideas better in terms of cost vs. benefit and disruption vs. strategic fit.

Ideas are flowing through organizations all the time. Some of these ideas can provide real opportunities for organizations IF the LIMFACs don’t get them first.


[To learn more ways to boost innovation in your organization, download a copy of the ebook Ridiculously Innovative: Generate More Ideas Faster to Grow Your Business or contact me directly at]