How To Kill Creativity (And How To Rebuild It)

Many of our organisations , without realising it , act as inhibitors of innovation.

Rules and protocols are put in place — often for very good reasons — that preserve the status quo. Over time, organisations develop a set of social norms — ‘the way we do things around here’ designed to protect the business from failure.

One of the biggest inhibitors of innovation is part of human nature itself — the fear of losing what we’ve got.

What if innovation isn’t about doing more stuff but just removing barriers?

What if we just become more conscious and innovation takes care of itself?

Perhaps by identifying and removing barriers we can accelerate innovation simply by leveraging the capability that’s already there.

Six things we can stop supporting:

Hierarchy

Most corporate structures are uniquely designed to ensure that any decent idea never goes near the top table. Structures that support hierarchical decision making limit opportunities for people to have influence and innovate.

Push power down by giving each employee as much decision-making power as possible within the framework of his or her job.

Restrictive job profiles

Job descriptions are like organisational treacle. They cause inertia because the moment employees are given specific responsibilities they expect them to stand still. They cause people to focus on “just doing the job”, not “thinking outside the box”.

Huge resources lie untapped. The networked organisation of the future will utilise the skills of people regardless of where they sit or what they do.

Over complication

What if we made it the number one objective of management to just get out of the way?

Most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in management and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

Silo Working

It’s hard to innovate when people work in silos. Splitting teams into isolated units limit the ability to identify which areas could be combined to create new products and services.

Lack of resources

Innovation is not about doing more stuff but doing less. We need to have honest conversations about decommissioning non value-added services. Go through your website and find 10 things you could stop doing today.

Reports and approvals

We need less time in meetings and more time conducting dangerous experiments.

Let’s stop writing reports and use the resources to create a space where an idea can take its first few breaths without someone trampling all over it. Let it come to life in a nurturing environment where we can see if it solves the right problems.

Too many organisations are failing to grasp how profoundly the rules of business in the digital era have changed. How we must become more networked, more social and more agile.

Our environment is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and interconnected. We can’t afford to have our organisations stifled by the protocols of a very different age.

(This article is an excerpt from “Can Innovation Labs Save The World” — a talk given to the National Housing Federation — full slides below)

  1. As I tweeted earlier this week there is always a simpler and better way. We over complicate too much in life.

    Reply

  2. That’s Tom. By the way

    Reply

    1. Thanks Tom – Appreciate it!

      Reply

    1. Thanks Ashok – much appreciated

      Reply

  3. A great post Paul. What really struck me reading it is how many of your points about the way organisations can inadvertently stifle creativity and colleague assets, chime with the way services can stifle citizen and community assets.

    If anyone is interested in learning a bit more about asset and strengths based community development I’ve pulled together a few useful sources in this post:

    https://johnbromford.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/an-abc-of-abcd/

    Reply

    1. Spot on John. It’s interesting the debate in health about use and access of patient data – almost entirely a conversation by paid professionals about what’s best for ‘us’.

      In the posts I’ve done about Asia I reckon there’s more street level ‘innovation’ precisely because there’s less of a professional tier to stifle people.

      Reply

  4. […] of the most interesting comments on my post How To Kill Creativity was from John Wade. In it he wondered whether the organisations […]

    Reply

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