by: Idris Mootee
How often we hear that managers complain about their innovative ideas are not heard and that everyone is only interested in the immediate bottom line?
Senior executives are popular targets for this type of blame, with comments such as: “They’re stuck in the past,” “He doesn't want anything different,” or “I’ve brought that idea up many times and nobody listens” or "These people have no vision“. Simple asking people to come up with more ideas only adds to the organization’s inventory of unused creativity, even creative agencies have truckloads of unused creative ideas, so there seems to be no shortage of them, then why is there so little innovation output on the other end?
Having too many creative idea can even be counterproductive. It distracts organizational focus and I have seen many times the core team spending months of valuable time running in circles. Not only does it fail to produce tangible innovation that drives new products, experiences and markets, it reinforces the idea that nobody is willing to act on new ideas. OK, is it unwilling to act on or incapable to act on?
These people are not incapable in the sense of their skills and experiences. The reason being that they see all the barriers up front and they realize the difficulties to overcome these challenges due to their experiences. Every manager sees a box, the box symbolizes the individual’s views about the limits to his boundaries of work (like inside a cubicle). The area inside the box represents the person’s job—what he thinks he is supposed to be doing and has certain freedom.
Now everything outside the box is forbidden territory or high risk territory. The question is who defines the boundaries? Well, 50% of the time we define our own boxes. There are times where organizational structures and control dictate that, but not all the time. Sociologist Karl Weick described this phenomenon as the “enactment of limitations,” the passivity of managers in accepting the limits of their own private boxes. He says: “On the basis of avoided tests, people conclude that constraints exist in the environment and that limits exist in their repertoire of responses. (Therefore) Inaction is justified by the implantation, in fantasy, of constraints and barriers that make an action ‘impossible.’” So what do you need not only to "think" but also "act" outside the box?