Five Ways People In Leadership Positions Cripple Innovation And Weaken Their Company Cultures

6 March, 2017 / Articles
Fernando Fischmann

People in leadership positions have their ways of making clear to employees that they shouldn’t bother innovating, although they’ll never flat-out say “we don’t want innovation around here.” The result, of course, is to weaken and stifle the culture of the company in question. Here are five particular ways that companies squelch innovation, that I come across as a consultant when I’m working on innovation and company culture.

1. The “bring back the witch’s broom and we’ll see” syndrome. Poor leaders often give lip-service support to small-scale experiments and brainstorming sessions here and there, but then fail to follow through when initial results show promise. This gives employees the feeling that leadership wasn’t prepared for them to succeed–and didn’t want them to in the first place. The leaders were just sending employees off to find the witch’s broom with no interest in supporting them once, improbably, they, like Dorothy, had succeeded with that task. Nothing could be demoralizing, and (as such an office environment is probably pet-unfriendly as well), there probably isn’t even a Toto around to keep you company.

2. Conservative hiring aimed only at protecting the status quo and the hirer’s posterior. Seeing no “gaps” in an applicant’s résumé,” far from being automatically a positive thing, can sometimes mean there’s no open space in the brain for new ideas. Yet anti-innovative companies look only at the risk rather than the potential reward of hiring unorthodox candidates. If a candidate has checked off all the boxes in previous positions, without ever venturing outside them, odds are good that’s how they’ll behave for you as well.

3. Lack of mentoring. Innovation flourishes or fails on a case-by-case, employee-by-employee, basis. If employees with an innovative spark lack hands-on support from above, that spark can flicker out long before it has a chance to for a fire to spread.

4. Being a stickler for “invented 100% here.” The way innovation works is often by combining new, internally-generated ideas with existing ideas from the outside world. But companies don’t always recognize this, and instead unduly value only what is made or invented entirely in-house. This not only slows things down and limits what you can make, it can also sabotage the success of your innovation.

5. Sarcasm and reflexive criticism. Some companies “value the dreamers” in their marketing message, and some companies value them in real life. The latter is where it matters. And you won’t get anyone to share their dreams or visions if you have a culture of sarcasm and reflexive criticism.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.

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