Everybody pretends they want innovation in their team. But they don’t act like they really do. If you want to kill the light bulb in your organization, if you want to stifle creativity, slow down your project’s progress, and cripple your project team in the face of unexpected challenges, then here are seven simple steps to do so.
1. Shoot the messenger! Create a culture that punishes bad news and, voila, it will go away. No more bad news! But so will your project. And it won’t be because you succeeded.
2. But we’ve always done it this way! This is a sure-fire way to shut down suggestions for new ways to do things. Especially from new team members that might otherwise cross-pollinate your project team with new ideas and ways to improve. Not every idea will be better than what you are already doing. But if this is always the first answer then you will soon stop getting those ideas. Even if your way is better, it’s NOT because you’ve always done it this way. It’s because there are reasons why it is better. So this answer is a cop out.
3. Never fail! Zero-tolerance, perfection-only, no-failure organizations ultimately fail at the big picture. If you are never failing, then you are not really trying to meet stretch goals. It’s better to want to shorten your project duration by 40% and “fail” by doing it only 25% than it is to not shorten it at all.
4. Spin everything! Worse than a culture that shoots the messenger is a culture of lies. If you spin everything to be positive then you can never learn anything. You also will never know how your project is really performing and whether or not any of your foundational assumptions were wrong.
5. Always move right to the next thing! Do not take the time to reflect and learn lessons from what you did before. And start executing the project as soon as possible. If you don’t spend time learning and you don’t spend time planning, then you are sure never to come up with innovative ideas and solutions.
6. Compartmentalize information! If nobody can see all the cards then they certainly can’t know when to bet. So be sure to only share certain types of information with certain silos on your team. This will ensure that there is absolutely no cross-pollination of ideas as nobody will have the ability to find common patterns between problems and point to solutions from a different silo. Also, nobody will ask any of those pesky difficult questions that might challenge your assumptions and cause you to re-think your plan.
7. Always make sure that you are the smartest person in the room! And if you can’t be, then assert that you are and bully everyone to ensure nobody is willing to challenge that assertion. Good leaders surround themselves with team players that are smarter than they are – especially in their own specialties. So definitely do not do that if you want the innovation light bulb in your team to go dark!