In this day and age, innovation rules over us all. There isn’t an area of human interest that isn’t being changed one way or another, and with the internet and its ability to give anyone any kind of information on any kind of subject, it’s not hard to see how our modern era has become such a boom of ideas, both good and bad, solutions and discoveries, both big and small and news of breakthroughs both true and false.
So, what does one do with all this stuff happening in their own organisation and how does it affect existing structures and processes that are already in place? After all, nothing is safe from being slightly tweaked at least, and dramatically revolutionised at most.
Now, say you’ve gotten a job and in time you’ve managed to feel mildly competent about it. You’ve learned the tricks of the trade, some might say you’re even irreplaceable. You have it under control, you’re making steady money and are slowly becoming an authority in your workplace, and you like it. People look to you as some sort of expert, as you proudly tell them what to do.
But one day somebody comes in with a new idea on how to do things, maybe in a better or more efficient way, an idea so alien to you that it reduces you to a toddler. No longer do you feel in charge, no longer can you proudly say no one can do your job better than you. Some jerk just waltzed in and took it all away, it happens and It happens all the time!
However sometimes you need to embrace innovation and learn to adapt yourself. By encouraging innovation in the work place you will also learn new things yourself and perhaps, just maybe, you will even find a better way of doing something you have been struggling with for years.
In our modern day and age there probably isn’t a single person that can honestly say they follow and understand all these new trends the world is using, although there’s plenty that know some of them. Chances are they are not out to make you obsolete but add and enhance how to do things better and essentially help.
For those who manage teams, hold management or leadership positions within their organisation, might what to take a look at the list and ask themselves, “am I killing innovation for my company?”
The 10 guaranteed ways to kill innovative thinking
1. Have a wide range of specific protocols
Create a structure in which everything is predicted by a set of particular steps that must be taken. There must be a feeling that any detour from these paths will cause everything to crumble into chaos.
Do not accept any additions or exceptions to this system. Your workers must know their individual qualities and thoughts have no place rampaging through your area.
They have to realise this is not the place for the passionate individual that wants to make a contribution to the world or explore new opportunities.
2. Focus on minutia
No one will have the time or energy to actually come up with something new when the already existing work is draining their life force and pushing them into the never ending void of painstakingly inconsequential details that will lead to an existential crisis.
They will wander around the office wondering what they’re doing with their lives. No need to worry about anyone shaking the system.
3. Micromanage everything
The obvious sequel to number two – after you’ve dazed them with the pointlessness of their jobs, have as much supervision breathing down their necks as you possibly can.
Make sure that each millisecond of their time is filled with being good productive little workers, and, if anyone gives you a strange, empty look when you use the word “productive”, know that you’re doing well.
4. Numbers are your best friend
Now, everyone is aware of the importance of a good number – whether it’s the number of working hours, completed assignments, or the one in your bank account. Bigger numbers always win and make sure your workers know that.
If some lazy bum wants to waste their work time on daydreaming of a better life where an obvious solution or a shortcut is actually implemented and then tries to trick you into thinking they did work by presenting it to you, do remind them if the number of hours they spent on that isn’t their designated quota, as well as if it is not being what they are paid to do.
5. Emphasise your importance
For innovative ideas to happen, one must question the existing way of doing things, and you don’t want that. Make sure your workers know you’ve been around the block for quite some time and have been doing just fine.
If they’re suspicious of your methods, they’re clearly not experienced or competent enough, since any fool can see that the reason you’re doing things the way you are, is the result of the unmistakable wisdom of a person that has already considered all the options that could ever possibly exist and has chosen the best one.
6. “Tried and true”Innovation is risky business.
It represents something still untried that doesn’t have a guarantee of paying off. Also, it can unfortunately cause a rather messy situation for you if you try to implement it in that systematic predictable way of work I have mentioned in the beginning of the list.
One nudge, and everything will crumble down. Of course, somebody might say that it’s worth it and the end result will make things much easier and more profitable, or that the change really isn’t that dramatic in the first place.
But you know better than to listen to that slacker, so long as any kind of loss is a possibility, you’re not taking any risks. You’ll focus specifically on the tried and true method everybody is using and make sure no one can tell the difference between your company and countless others.
7. Award mediocrity
Since you’ve been doing all of the above, you have probably seen a number of workers who are in fact managing to pull through the system you’ve set up, doing their tasks without question, nitpicking every little facet of everything you’ve put in front of them and apparently accepting all your protocols and even thriving on repetition.
Make sure they know that’s the kind of spirit you appreciate and it will get them ahead. If some poor misguided soul has been doing that purely because they had the illusion that more power and privileges could get them liberty from the mental shackles which are your workplace – make sure to set them straight.
You will end up with all of the company’s authority in the hands of your intellectual peers and there will be nothing to worry about.
8. Imported innovation
Even though your company has wisely avoided any risk taking and unnecessary spending of resources, there are those who didn’t. Every once in a while, there are some who succeed.
What to do now? Suddenly, it paid off for someone, and all your “I know what I’m doing” attitude is questioned. Fear not, for you can always present the new development as something that could have only been possible in some outrageously different environment that nobody could ever associate with a place like yours.
Therefore, you are safe from having your abilities questioned, and attempt implementation only after you have observed everyone else do it and seen all the possible pitfalls.
Now, you have the confidence to dive into something new after it has stopped being new to anyone else and still act like you know how it all works.
You don’t really expect your workforce to think. That’s what you’re here for and you have it all figured out. They are only expected to know as much as you tell them, and,with the soul crushing everyday routine you’ve set up, they can’t be bothered to expand their knowledge and interests beyond that.
Soon, they will have the exact same reaction to innovation that you do: “Oh no, more work” (sigh). Now you are brothers in arms and your mission is done.
10. Your company is an island
The chambers of lost souls, which you now call the office, have through steps taken, become inadvertently tied to you. They have useless skills, neurological issues and crushed dreams. They don’t have the inspiration to go seek out different employment or criticise the current establishment, and they know that.
Every innocent new worker that comes through the door is automatically sucked into the void of futile exhaustion, and your ranks grow. You didn’t even have to lift a finger.
So the list is a bit extreme and pokes fun at management that is scared to embrace innovative thinkers within an organisation, but by now you get the point.
So my questions are, have you ever felt stifled in your company, never been encouraged to take ideas forward or rejected when you have suggestions of improvement to your managers?
Or have you been a manager guilty of fearing changes that might make you feel obsolete or less in control?
How can we as good managers encourage our employees and subordinates to grow and proactively innovate in the workplace to enhance our business?
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