Ways to create the innovative organisation

It is widely accepted that some types of organisation can be more creative and innovative than others (Hesselbein, Goldsmith and Somerville, 2002). Why? Some argue that organisational features can override and stifle the innovative capabilities of individuals. Kanter (2002) identifies ten, which she argues are common in organizations of all types and sizes.

Rules for stifling innovation

  1. Regard a new idea from below with suspicion, because it’s new, and because it’s from below.

  2. Insist that people who need your approval to act first go through several other levels of management to get their signatures.
  1. Ask departments or individuals to challenge and criticize each others’ proposals. That saves you the job of deciding; you just pick the survivor.
  1. Express criticism freely, and withhold praise. That keeps people on their toes. Let them know that they can be fired at any time.
  1. Treat identification of problems as signs of failure, to discourage people from letting you know when something in their area isn’t working.
  1. Control everything carefully. Make sure people count anything that can be counted, frequently.
  1. Make decisions to reorganize or change policies in secret, and spring them on people unexpectedly. That keeps people on their toes.
  1. Make sure that requests for information are fully justified, and make sure that it is not given out to managers freely. You don’t want data to fall into the wrong hands.
  1. 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.
  1. And above all, never forget that you, the higher-ups, already know everything important about this business.
Sound familiar? Usually creative types and doers will simply leave this environment, preferring to step away from the committees environment demanded by "B-listers" looking to fill their days and prevent change.

When experimenting with the new, failure is to be expected. Ideas that do not work out must be regarded as learning opportunities, not as platforms for recrimination and blame.

Innovation is inhibited where organisation culture favours blame over learning. Is this a problem for firms, where risk management and the avoidance of error are paramount considerations ? It is difficult for individuals and teams to be innovative and to take risks in some segments of their working domain, while following standard rules and protocols to minimise variability and risk in other areas.


I've always hated big firm environments for this very reason - the public and management face says "We encourage innovation and creativity", whilst ensuring it's too hard or too much of a career risk to be try new things.

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