Fostering organizational creativity

After studying attitudes and policies regarding innovation and creativity in a number of large organizations, Rosabeth Moss Kanter was able to describe the means by which some managers regularly stifled innovation and prevented employees from generating new ideas. She developed a list of ten managerial attitudes – contrasted with the appropriately counterproductive behavior – that she believes ensure the stifling of innovation efforts. The Change Masters addresses these ten ‘rules for stifling innovation’, which are presented below:

Kanter’s “Ten rules for stifling innovation”

* Regard any new idea from below with suspicion – because it’s new and because its; from below.
* Insist that people who need your approval to act first go through several other levels of management to get their signatures.
* Ask departments or individuals to challenge and criticize each other’s proposals. (That saves you the job of deciding); you just pick the survivor.
* Express your criticism freely, and withhold your praise. (That keeps people on their toes). Let them know they may be fired at any time.
* Treat identification of problems as signs of failure, to discourage people from letting you know when something in their area isn’t working.
* Control everything carefully. Make sure people count anything that can be counted frequently.
* Make decisions to reorganize or change policies in secret and spring them on people unexpectedly (That also keeps people on their toes).
* Assign to lower level managers, in the name of delegation and participation, responsibility for figuring out how to cut back, lay off, move people around, or otherwise implement threatening decisions you have made. And get them to do it quickly.

And above all, never forget that you, the higher ups already know everything important about this business.

But what is the other side of the coin? How can managers accommodate their concerns about the effects of change ad innovation to the increasing need to foster a climate that encourages creative participation by employees at various levels of the organization? Some positive steps – some possible answers to these questions are listed below.

Some Prescriptions for fostering organizational creativity:

(1) Develop an acceptance of change. Organization members must believe that change will benefit them and the organization. This belief is more likely to arise if members participate with their managers in making decisions and if issues like job security are carefully handled when changes are planned and implemented.
(2) Encourage new ideas: Organization managers, from the top to the lowest level supervisors, must make it clear in word and deed that they welcome new approaches. To encourage creativity managers must be willing to listen to subordinates’ suggestions and to implement promising ones or convey them to higher level managers.
(3) Permit more interaction: A permissive, creative climate is fostered by giving individuals the opportunity to interact with members of their own and other work groups. Such interaction encourages the exchange of useful information, the free flow of ideas, and fresh perspectives on problems.
(4) Tolerate failure: Many new ideas prove impractical or useless. Effective managers accept and allow for the fact that time and resources will be invested in experimenting with new ideas that do not work out.
(5) Provide clear objectives and the freedom to achieve them. Organization members must have a purpose and direction for their creativity. Supplying guidelines and reasonable constraints will also give managers some control the amount of time and money invested in creative behavior.
(6) Offer recognition: Creative individuals are motivated to work hard on tasks that interest them. But, like all individuals, they enjoy being rewarded for a task well done. By offering recognition in such tangible forms as bonus and salary increases, managers demonstrate that creative behavior is valued in their organizations. —