Tired of people taking initiative or developing creative solutions? Feel like putting a stop to that? It isn’t hard to do. Envision the crestfallen look on a young person’s face when we tell them that despite a well-intentioned effort to do something in a new or better way, they did it wrong – and they must never do it again. Once may not be enough to permanently squelch enthusiasm, but repeated criticism or correction will ensure less creative problem-solving and initiative.
Don’t Rock the Boat
What messages do we send in our own workplace about those who take initiative and generate creative solutions? Typically organizations want people to follow procedures, operate within certain norms, and not rock the boat. All of these things do serve a purpose – and they are especially effective at maintaining the status quo. However, if improvement is in order, some other expectations are required. Doing things differently or for the first time almost guarantees there will be mistakes made and failures along the way. The question becomes: do we have a tolerance for imperfection? Do we have the fortitude to do what is right or best – even if we know it won’t be done perfectly?
Kevin Eikenberry, leadership expert, says that mistakes are OK as long as they:
- Lead to learning
- Aren’t repeated
- Are done in pursuit of goals and objectives.
- Don’t violate or conflict with your values
3 Ways to Squash Creativity in the Workplace
Change and improvement will almost always lead to making mistakes – what matters is how we handle them. Squelching creativity, initiative, and enthusiasm is guaranteed when you just follow these simple guidelines:
1 –Don’t do anything new – stick with the familiar – doing new things increases the likelihood of mistakes and requires all sorts of changes in multiple areas. And in the long-run, trying new things encourages others to come up with new ways of doing things which can create a vicious cycle of improvements.
2 – Whenever someone proposes a new or different way to do something, focus on the reasons the idea will not work. Frequently you can use the “we’ve already tried that” card – if you invoke the name of a failed prior initiative, you often do not need to provide any additional rationale.
3 –Fixate on and micro-manage the details – details are not unimportant, but they can be all-consuming. If everyone is managing the details, they will have little opportunity to “see the bigger picture.” Seeing the bigger picture only invites ideas and new ways of doing things.
Change and improvement are risky business, avoiding those risks will ensure your organization will stay right where it is!