Is Your Company Culture Destroying Creativity?


Get Shift Done: Management

Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with organizations both large and small. No matter what the size the business, I’ve seen that way that culture can enable creativity — or stifle and eventually destroy it altogether.

Destroying Creativity

Many of the traditional organizations I’ve worked with had hierarchies that were focused on group or department roles, with formal and rigid chain of commands. They are highly prone to bureaucracy and role protectionism.

Employees at all levels, but especially the lower ones, felt disconnected from company-wide goals. They didn’t buy-in to management’s talk of how “employees matter.” They believed that their knowledge was of no real interest to management.

Many employees believed that even when they had great ideas, they would not be recognized or rewarded for those ideas. Instead, they opted to say nothing.

I can recall specific meetings at the team, department, and even company-wide level, where I knew that individuals had smart solutions to problems, but were reluctant to share them because of an innovation-resistant culture.

As one employee put it, “I get paid to do what my boss thinks is a smart idea. Management doesn’t care what I think, even though they say they do.”

Enabling Creativity

In the case of the particular employee quoted above, the company ultimately lost this individual to a competitor who reaped the benefits of some pretty great ideas.

The competitor had a more organic structure with fewer layers, and a less formal chain of command. This company was open to ideas flowing from anywhere, regardless of hierarchy, which increased buy-in from employees at all levels.

The increase in employee interest, buy-in, accountability, and trust also encouraged more employee participation, generation of fresh ideas, and sharing of unique job specific knowledge.

The Bottom-Line

In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether your company has a rigid hierarchy or not. Rather, the key to fostering and reaping the benefits of creativity lies in openness to new ideas.

If the company ignores new ideas , or only pays attention to new ideas from top management, then creativity will be crushed. But if the company is open to new ideas from any level, it will reap the benefits of improved products, customer relations, and financial performance.

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