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Support Innovation and New Ideas: Don’t Kill Them!

November 30th, 2012

When it comes to business trends and buzz-speak, “creativity” is one of the most discussed and least understood words in the modern world. It’s followed at a short distance by “innovation”. While self-described business experts love using these words and claiming to support a culture of spontaneity and ingenuity, the same experts tend to end their speeches by returning to their cubicled workscapes and actively smothering the creativity out of everything around them. There’s a reason for this; most business decision makers depend on the status quo for their security and success, and new ideas—brilliant, impractical, nascent, polished or raw– always represent a threat to the status quo.

So if you’re responsible for supporting business growth and encouraging a thriving culture of ideas, how can you balance that desire with the perfectly natural urge to curtail change and mitigate risk? How can you actually—not just superficially– support creativity and bring out the spark of unconventional genius in each of your employees? More to the point, how can you make sure aren’t crushing that spark every time it shows a sign of life?

Diversity is Powerful, and so is its Absence

Start by looking around your workplace. You should see people from every age group, and these people should represent both genders, multiple ethnicities, and every imaginable size, shape and back story. You may not be leading the United Nations, but the more your employees vary in background, the more they’ll learn from each other, which means the smarter they’ll be, and the stronger your company will become. If you see too much similarity, make some targeted changes to your staffing strategy.

Don’t Rush Things

There’s no faster way to kill new ideas than by forcing them. Be careful how you ration resources, especially time. Brilliant and risky ideas sometimes result from intense deadline pressure….but they usually don’t. Instead, unrealistic deadlines tend to produce assembly line ideas that look just like all the previous ones.

Regulate Product if you Want, But Not Process

Be flexible and allow employees to work in their own way. Just because you read a management article that says employees work best in teams, or in the morning, or when encouraged to compete, doesn’t mean it’s true. Some processes work well from some employees and not for others.

Most Important: Don’t Withhold Support

The best way to keep an employee from suggesting an idea (or even considering the idea in the first place) is to reflexively reject, deny, or ignore unsolicited suggestions. Especially in a public setting. The second best method involves taking the idea and putting it into action without providing appropriate credit or compensation. Give employees incentive to think outside the box, and when they do it, thank them and give them support, whether the idea has merit or not.

Reach out to the Connecticut staffing and business management experts at Merritt for more ways to encourage creativity in your workplace. We can help you remove obstacles to innovation and bring out the best in your team.

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