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10 surefire ways to destroy innovative thinking

With all the upcoming leadership events and keynotes that I have on my schedule, I’m on a pretty constant stream of planning conference calls.

As I dig into the culture and attitude of a client through interviews with the CEO and other team members, I’m always mystified to find  that some organizations just seem to do everything they can to shut down new ideas.

Here’s a few of the key mistakes that I think organizations make when it comes to innovation. They:

  • form a committee. An absolute sure fired way of shutting down ideas! The herd mentality takes over, and activity sclerosis soon sets in.
  • defer decisions. It’s easier to wait than to make any bold, aggressive moves. Uncertainty is a virtue; indecision is an asset.
  • hide failure. If anyone tries something new and doesn’t succeed, make sure that no one else sees it. You don’t want to set a message that it is important to take risks.
  • let innovators work in secret. You want to make sure that the concept of innovation remains some deep, mysterious process that not everyone can participate in. That will help to ensure that most of your team doesn’t pursue any type of fresh new thinking. They’ll just keep doing what they’ve always done.
  • banish fear. Make sure that everyone thinks that everything is going to be all right. You don’t have to deal with potential business market disruption, new competitors, significant industry transformation or the impact of globalization. Everything will look the same ten years from now, so just keep everyone focused on doing the same old thing!
  • accept the status quo. Things are running perfectly, you’ve got the perfect product mix, and all of your customers are thrilled with your brand and the levels of customer service. There’s no need to do anything new, since it’s all going to work out just fine!
  • be cautious. Don’t make any bold, aggressive moves. Just take things slowly, one step at a time. If you move too fast, things are likely to go wrong. Let complacency settle in like a warm blanket.
  • glorify process.  Make sure that everything is filled out in triplicate; ensure that process slows down any radical ideas.  It’s more important to do things perfectly than to make mistakes.
  • be narrow. Keep a very tiny view of the future. You can’t succeed with any big wins, because there aren’t going to be any dramatic surprises in the future. Think small. Act accordingly.
  • study things to death. Don’t let any uncertainty creep into your decision making process. Make sure that if you are to do anything, that you’ve spent sufficient time and effort to understand all the variables. Your goal is ensuring that any decision is free of risk, unlikely to fail, and will in retrospect be carefully and fully documented.

Wait! That’s 11 ways! And there are certainly more attitudes that help to destroy innovative thinking.

What do you think? What are the other attitudes and ways of thinking that manage to shut down organizational idea machines?

And do you want more insight like this? Check my Innovation Inspiration page!

2 Responses to “10 surefire ways to destroy innovative thinking”

  1. Mark Brandon said:

    I would add: ‘curb passion’

    One of my previous companies had ‘Passion’ as one of its key values.

    I am very passionate where I believe new ideas can benefit the company and where over-ambitious new ideas or unrealistic goals need showing up for what they are, and am not above intensively questioning and challenging up, sideways or whatever is needed.

    I was hauled over the coals by my then line manager after asking some difficult questions at a company briefing on a new strategy, and accused of being ‘negative’ and ‘hot-headed’.

    I said: “I thought one of our company values was ‘Passion'”
    He said: “Ah yes, but we meant POSITIVE passion…”

    To my mind, innovation results from a passion to find new, better ways of doing things, and sometimes that means challenging lazy or limited thinking internally. I think it’s important to allow your people to show their passion, even when it isn’t quite what you wanted to hear…

  2. Jim said:

    Nice – definitely true. Lots of dispirited people out there who have had their enthusiasm turned off because of attitudes like that!

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