I have had several insightful experiences that have been examples of how organizations stop innovation. First, I should say that I am not personally aware of any organization that wants to prohibit creativity. As far as I know most, if not all, companies and organizations want creative, innovative ideas. They want to be able to grow and change to best meet the needs of their customers and constituents. However, time and again I see companies make decisions, both big and small, that prohibit creativity and send the message that new ideas are not welcome.
An Example of Stopping Creative Ideas
One organization I worked with was in the process of redesigning their website because their parent company was doing the same and required them to move to a new content management software. Their website was long overdue for an overhaul and I was thrilled when I heard the news. The company has about 60 full-time employees and 1800 part-time employees. The CEO asked the marketing director to form a committee to compile recommendations for the new website. The marketing director announced at a staff meeting if anyone wanted to be involved in the committee to let her know. One of the part-time employees with experience in web design and graphic design expressed interest in the committee. Within a couple of weeks he had not heard anything so he sent a follow up email to the committee leader. She responded saying the committee was limited to only full-time staff.
This is an excellent way to limit innovation and new ideas! By limiting input to a small number of internal staff, the company is limiting the new ideas and perspectives from others, and the end result will most likely be an inferior product. However, the committee members will find the work easier since they will not be challenged by significant new ideas from outsiders. What ideas might you be limiting by not reaching beyond the usual people you interact with?
Three Ways to Increase Innovation
Here are some ideas on how to be more creative and ensure your company is not unintentionally limiting creativity.
- Examine how you can bring new ideas into your organization. Who are the people who sit on your committees? Invite customers or clients to join a committee for one meeting or a few months in order to gain their perspective and input. You might be surprised at the results.
- Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Long gone are the Renaissance times when you could be knowledgeable in all current areas. Today the pool of knowledge on the planet is unfathomably large. It takes a lifetime to become an expert in any one area. In the example above the company was behind in their use of technology and I do wonder if there may have been some nervousness about a new person pushing them too much.
- Provide and seek out professional development opportunities. New learning from a variety of angles can greatly increase employees’ effectiveness and skills and help them be more innovative at work. How can you increase professional development for yourself and your employees?
How might you be inadvertently stopping innovation? What new experiences or perspectives can you gain this month to help you and your organization be more innovative?