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Sunday, August 26, 2018

How Mangers Can Damage Innovation Through Discouraging Curiosity

I'm reading through the October version of the Harvard Business Review and I came across two great articles on curiosity and innovation. According to these two articles managers often kill off innovation by discouraging employees from being creative by implicitly giving signals that asking questions is not acceptable. They further push employees to be silent and work toward what makes them look good to people higher up the food chain.

That pushes employees to be quiet, not look for alternatives, review processes, or understand the bigger picture of what is going on within their organizations. Thus, the employee becomes the worker and the boss becomes the gatekeeper to benefits. Strong employees may leave and the weaker one's stay. The entire organization starts to die.

The problem is that bright, intelligent, and capable employees don't rely on their bosses for much other than information. Their boss could easily be replaced as high quality employees work on their own without direction. Micromanaging bosses destroy self-directed creativity, learning and performance. They turn something wonderful into something that is not rewarded within the organization.

Thus such bosses actually suck the life out the organization in the long run. They don't allow cross collaboration, don't allow bright minds to move into new positions and often hamper the whole organization. Innovative companies need a new way of thinking and methods of flattening the road blocks that some bosses put in place.

They don't know this though.  Insight into one's own behavior is very difficult. They can't see that their decisions and constant push on projects that promote themselves slowly take away from the full functioning of their employees and the long-term competitiveness of the organization. Any employee who raises such objectives against task oriented self-gratification is likely to be punished in terms of promotion and opportunities; at the very least by negative feedback.

The near term takes precedence over the long-term, the employee is silent, and leaders are ignorantly happy until it all comes crashing down. Most companies have no clue how their culture and choices of managers improves or hampers their business. Once they start loosing money they begin to hire consultants to tell them things their common sense should have told them a long time ago.

Herein is the biggest crime of all. The smartest, brightest, and most competent are punished by the selfish that regularly choose themselves over the needs of the organization or others. Those employees simply leave instead of having clash after clash with their bosses who have more formal power. Dominant, high quality, employees with the most creative capacity and the highest intelligence do not find paths for success and put their talents to work for people who appreciate them.

Creativity and exploration should be encouraged. Cross collaborative projects are also helpful. Poor bosses should be demoted, removed or counseled. The boss is only an information giver and collector. While they do provide direction for work they are generally information bound on what priorities to work on. These priorities should include the needs of the entire organization beyond their own needs to be promoted. Of course, we know this on a theoretical level but rarely do we find enough insight to implement it in an organization.

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