Two Industrial Era Management Beliefs That Kill Innovation

Failing organizations are usually over managed and under ledBeliefs. We all have them. They’re how we make our way through life, from making decisions about who we make friends with, where we choose to work, who we collaborate with and what we do and don’t; they’re a guide to behavior.

The problem with beliefs is they mostly go unchallenged, so we become anchored in them. Some beliefs are so hardened into our mindset they cause more harm than good. For example, inside organizations they determine the present and future of the business. And businesses that fail do so because they miss the future; anchored to outdated beliefs.

Companies that aspire to innovate have to get out of their own way by challenging core beliefs of how they believe business works. There are two beliefs that hold leaders and their organizations back which have stood the test of time:

  1. Hiring interns to do heavy work for a very low cost;
  2. Hoarding and not sharing information with ones team to maintain control.

Both beliefs, in my opinion, come from a very deep motivation to maintain the status quo. They’re heavily present in the manufacturing industry, or any industry that doesn’t require a lot of knowledge work; these are types of jobs that will be easily automated.

Let’s start with the first one…

Belief that the best employees are low cost interns you can work harder

There’s a belief in Mexico that the best employees are those with scholarships, because they’re cheap and you can work them harder than everyone else. This is what many companies believe productivity looks like, and I can confirm this to be true in my experience working with mexican companies.

This belief is not specific to Mexico, it’s a hardened belief that started with the Industrial Revolution; mexican business owners just can’t imagine it being any different.

I’m not opposed to hiring interns. I just don’t agree with the belief that they make the best employees because they’re cheap. I hire for attitude, mindset and talent; not because I want to reduce costs to maximize profits, because I truly value human capital.

I believe my life will be better if I surround myself with people who are Hungry Minds; lifelong learners. The benefit is talent attracts talent when you filter for learning, attitude and talent. Aspiring innovators either hire the best talent possible or develop it in-house; neither option is cheap.

Belief that being smarter than others and hoarding knowledge gives him / her more power

It’s very hard for me to work with assholes: people who believe they’re superior because they’re older and more experienced than I am; nothing comes out of this because there’s no knowledge sharing happening.

I know a handful of people who still operate by the belief that employees are minions without a brain; just there to do the boss’ wish. Unfortunately, the leaders of companies who still operate like this are making a huge mistake because knowledge work is more ubiquitous today than 50 years ago. Today’s workers should be as informed as its leaders, and they are; the problem is they’re not empowered to act on that knowledge.

Many new ideas die before they even start because of this belief. The result is a company that depends on the knowledge of one or a few people which leads to perpetual stagnation and failure to create the future.


Key Takeaway

Remember that innovation is another code word for leadership. With that said, I can determine the innovation potential of your organization by the way you lead and prioritize. A simple conversation with a business leader will tell me whether or not you’re organized for innovation. And one thing I aim to understand is their belief system, because the above beliefs drive the common innovation challenges that exist inside established organizations.

Transformation is driven by a growth mindset, not a fixed one. Organizations that hold the above beliefs sacred are operating with a fixed mindset, one that values predictability and order; you will never transform and reinvent your business this way.

The beliefs that hold us back as people also hold back our organizations. Leaders who aspire to lead innovative organizations must have strong opinions weakly held; they must have strong beliefs but keep and open mind.

The leader of the future is a lifelong learner, values diversity, leads with purpose and has an entrepreneurial mindset; and inspires other to do the same.