The easiest way to crush creativity is to find fault with new ideas which colleagues and subordinates bring forward. The more clever and more experienced you are, the easier it is to shoot holes in any proposal You can show your superior intelligence and highly honed management analysis skills by pointing out all the flaws in their proposals. All the experts pointed out to Marconi that radio waves travel in straight lines and the Earth is a sphere so it was silly to think of transmitting a radio signal across the Atlantic. Yet Marconi defied the experts by transmitting across the Atlantic. The radio signals were reflected by the ionosphere. As those experts showed, intelligence and experience can give us all the ammunition we need to criticize innovative ideas.
All it takes is for a few crazy ideas to be shot down and people stop volunteering them. So the next time someone comes to you with a wacky, half-formed idea which you can immediately see is riddled with faults, bite your tongue and say the following:
‘That sounds interesting; how can we make it work?’
The let them talk. As they expand on their idea you will almost certainly see ways in which it could be adapted to work. Explore it constructively together and you stand a better chance of coming up with a winner. What is more the person who was courageous enough to suggest the idea feels motivated to improve on their idea and encouraged to come up with more in the future.
An atmosphere where ideas are criticized will crush creativity and deter people from coming forward. An atmosphere which welcomes ideas is a necessary prerequisite for an innovative organization. It is an essential foundation on which to build an entrepreneurial enterprise.
Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.