Kill These 2 Innovation-Blocking Employee Assumptions

Radical Transparency.  It seems like a difficult culture to maintain without completely stripping team members from their own emotions, but Ray Dalio runs his business that way. Take a look for more information on Bridgewater’s unique way of giving feedback.
On the opposite end of that scale is a culture where nothing gets done unless everyone at each level has taken the time and energy to calculate the reaction each action or idea may generate from the level of management above it.  Mistakes or failures are punished (overtly or quietly, in the form of reputation damage wrought by a whisper campaign) and the only acceptable actions are those perceived to be completely without risk. This is an extraordinary waste of energy and time, and like a poisonous fog, obscures what could be great ideas, big wins, monumental problems solved…and as Ken Pearlman described here, it’s a true innovation killer.
Here are two ways your employees are wasting their time, your company’s money, and squandering innovation in the process:
1.   Nothing is shared with leadership unless it’s perceived as something they want to hear.  Each idea that’s generated is initially met with excitement, but that’s quickly tamped down when the team goes into full spin mode. What will the leaders think of this idea? There is currently a huge push underway to cut costs, so this idea is likely to be seen as a misunderstanding of that directive, because it requires a budget. What about the fact that it is likely net cost-saving?  No way will the team (or their manager) take that chance, because if it is a flop, history has shown they will go down with their ship.
2.   Those who actually go ahead and champion ideas that go against #1 are labeled as troublemakers. Sometimes ideas are just that good—your employees can’t resist trying to bring them to fruition. What has happened to those team members in the past?  Have your fearful managers attached targets to their backs and discredited them to the rest of the leadership team?  Or have these employees with moxie been so discouraged by the stagnant culture that they left the company on their own? Either way, you lose—ideas, talent, and forward motion.         
When you multiply the levels of your organization, if this waste of resources is happening all the way up the chain, you are losing a lot of productivity and nixing hundreds of great ideas.  Discard the fear and send the message from the top that innovation and free flow of ideas is what you want and expect from your employees and managers, and enjoy the success that comes from trusting the amazing people you chose to be part of your team. Visit Solve HR, Inc.
Photo credit: Patty Maher via / CC BY-ND