The “Top Gear” effect

New ideas often meet opposition, often from the unlikeliest sources. One of the most common revolves around the naysayer who places barriers wherever possible, often using humour but who will not ever propose an alternative to what is being proposed. This can sometimes be a result of manipulation in order for someone to get their own way or just enthusiasm but the outcome of this is that the problem stays firmly in place and no progress is made. In the worst-case scenario this type of response can form a part of the culture of an organisation and then the trouble really starts.
One of the problems with this type of response is that its done with humour and the protagonist will always fall back on the “I was joking” card and will subtly accuse everyone else of being overly serious. This is called a “Top Gear” response as it formed the basis of pretty much every episode of the show, especially the part when they all sat around on car seats to discuss a subject. For example: Electric cars: cue a raft of jokes about “green people”, “climate change”, poor acceleration and other stereotypes, all funny and very entertaining, the only problem is they are quite a good idea and that a golden opportunity to show the positives has been passed up…[ah well]
So the question to ask yourself when new ideas are dismissed humorously is: Do we know more now than we did before? Has an alternative option been proposed? If not you may have just been subjected to a “Top Gear “ response, meaning that everyone laughed but we are still an ignorant as we were at the start of the meeting. So how can this situation be dealt with? We have all had bosses that take themselves way to seriously and as a result make any interaction with them stressful, on the other hand being to free and easy can just lead to a lack of respect and in some cases out-and-out contempt.

A good way to deal with this is by setting some ground rules, something along the lines of:
  1. Everyone can criticise: in fact it’s essential to the process but only if a genuine issue is raised and / or a valid alternative is proposed, [emphasising the “valid” in the last sentence is important.] In the best-case scenario this will start new lines of discussion and lead ultimately to better solutions and new ideas.
  2. Be as humorous as you like: in fact the more the better [Google john Cleese Creativity lecture for a great explanation of this] but make sure it falls within the lines marked out in point 1.
This way the naysayer can have his / her time without having the effect of pouring cold water on the discussion, likewise the frustrated comedian brings so much more to the table and in some cases starts the ball rolling that leads to the breakthrough idea.