Not every organization is pro-innovation. Just because they say they are doesn’t mean they truly are; mostly it’s B.s..
At the end of last year, a friend of mine got recruited by a company that pays lip service to innovation. I won’t name the company, but his description of his daily routine is anything but conducive to innovation. The enemies of innovation are breeding and poisoning people’s spirit. The way he describes it is “toxic”; he’s miserable.
When he was being recruited it didn’t sound like that at all. He was promised freedom to create and decide on future projects; 6 months later it hasn’t happened. Rather there’s a lot of finger pointing and zero empowerment. His mistake was not doing his due dilligence, because the truth lies in looking at the day to day activities of a company to find out whether or not a culture of innovation exists.
What are the hints that he should have picked up on to determine his employer is just full of it? Here are a few:
- Salary. One hint is the salary he’s getting paid as a Brand Manager. It’s ridiculous. It tells you how much they value brand.
- Short-term sales focus. Another sign is what department gets paid the most: sales. This company values short-term results, which he found out a week into his new gig.
- Leadership. The founders of the company are not innovators; they’re sales people. Thus, they value that the most.
- Strategy. The company’s strategy is low-cost with a race to the bottom mentality who suddenly wants to be more brand focused. Good luck with that!
Traditionally run businesses are notorious for caring more about maintaining business as usual than challenging the status quo. This poses a challenge for innovators because getting hired by these companies means “fitting-in”; this is how they dismiss innovators. An innovative organization would not ask people to be something they’re not; they welcome misfits.
Which takes me to the following: If you’re an innovator, what should you look for when hiring an employer?
People need to be engaged with their work, that means having bold goals but also assigning the right person to the right project.
Companies should define goals but let employees have some autonomy in how to get there. Basically, let people figure out the right path forward and not get in their way.
Too little time or money can dampen creativity at work.
A safe way to kill creativity is to encourage homogeneous teams. These groups will find incremental solutions, not bold ideas that break from precedent. For that you need a diverse group of people who don’t view the world the same way.
Support and recognition for trying by higher ups and colleagues is essential for creative work.
Companies that mandate information sharing and collaboration while discouraging politics will see creativity thrive.
Rememeber, innovation is another code word for leadership. This, for me, is the biggest sign that a company is pro-innovation. Because a company that doesn’t have a bold purpose, doesn’t value curiosity and experimentation, and doesn’t empower it’s employees is just paying lip service to innovation.