What impedes employees from being innovative in the workplace?

 What impedes employees from being innovative in the workplace?

Much like the LinkedIn discussion that triggered it, last week’s post hit a nerve: can employees learn to be innovative?

A few people suggested we reframe the question to:

  • Can most employers learn how to stop blocking their employee’s innovative spirit?
  • How might employers let employees bring their passion to work?

There are many ways to look at it, and frankly I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Hard? Yes. Complicated? No.

Understand the nature of innovation

For as much talk and examples of innovation are discussed, most organizations haven’t gotten the message. And frankly they never will because it goes against human nature. Here’s the message for you: Innovation is not additive, it is subtractive.

This means you just don’t add activities on top of what you already do, you have to eliminate to make room for the new.

As stated a few weeks ago, employees need support, challenge and freedom to innovate in the workplace. So, if we invert the question“can employees learn to be innovative?” to “what impedes employees from being innovative in the workplace?”, we arrive at what blocks inspiration in the workplace.

What are those things?

Things like posters with inspiring quotes, medals and rewards, innovation programs, innovation champions, all the stuff that signals activity (addition) are useless; unless you eliminate the stuff that gets in the way of true inspiration.

Which are all the things that take time away from deeply engaging with ones work: unnecessary and annoying rules, endless meetings and emails, distractions from pesky managers and co-workers, etc..

Oh, then there’s hierarchy’s friends: no management support, silo thinking, no freedom, etc..

Bottom line: People need time and a place to reflect and work on what could be done differently. If you are serious about doing things differently, time to reflect and experiment freely is the most precious gift you can give employees.

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Innovation begins in the heart