5 Ways to Stifle Creativity and Innovation

Christopher Witt —  February 6, 2014

Making it happenInnovation and creativity are good things, and to be encouraged.

Creativity and innovation aren’t the same thing, although they are related. Creativity conceives something new, innovation implements it.

In today’s environment, businesses live or die based on their ability to foster both creativity and innovation. And yet their policies, practices, and mindsets too often stifle creativity and innovation.

5 Ways to Stifle Creativity and Innovation

1. Eliminate administrative support.

Make your senior- and mid-level managers arrange their own travel, file and track expense reports, schedule meetings, and prepare and distribute material for those meetings. Keep them distracted with mindless and frustrating administrivia.

Ignore evidence that administrative assistants improve efficiency and productivity.

2. Limit idle time.

Keep your people busy at all times. Discourage breaks during the day, when people might clear their minds or talk with colleagues (which might or might not introduce them to new ideas). Make people feel like slackers if they take all their vacation days.

Ignore findings that suggest creativity happens during periods of disengagement and a relaxed state of mind following intense concentration.

3. Hold more meetings.

Sure, meetings are costly and time consuming. And poorly run meetings foster boredom and frustration, as well as emotional and intellectual stupor: the enemies of creativity and innovation. But schedule more meetings anyway. Maybe meet to discuss how to foster creativity and innovation.

Ignore guidelines for calling and running more effective meetings.

4. Set unrealistic deadlines.

Assume that people do their most creative work under pressure and time constraints produce breakthrough ideas. Forget that experimentation and research, analysis and evaluation, reflection, design and testing take time.

Ignore research that finds “When creativity is under the gun, it usually ends up getting killed.”

5. Discourage laughter, silliness, play.

Humor allows people to let down their guard and to make unexpected, sometimes absurd, sometimes profound associations. It builds goodwill, cooperation, and the free exchange of ideas. But keep telling yourself that creativity and innovation are serious matters.

Ignore evidence that “humor makes you more creative.”

There are probably 50 or 60 ways, not just 5 ways, to stifle creativity and innovation at work. Which practices, policies, and mindsets do you find most stifling?

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.