Encouraging Innovation: Fueling the Intellectual Property Engine
Most companies have undoubtedly set up formalized rules for behavior and adherence to good business practices. These rules, which often include guidelines for such considerations as discrimination in the workplace, drug policy, performance reviews, and ethical behavior, are often reinforced at least once a year, in order to ensure that the company conforms to governmental regulations, as well as legal considerations for such things as corporate liability. This training may also firm up the alignment of company policies with vendor relationships, code of conduct, and various forms of intellectual property protection. Compliance training is probably necessary, and it can be good business to ensure that everyone knows the rules. But do leaders ever consider the downside to a rules-driven environment that requires such training?
The fact is that compliance training can be a significant disincentive to personal creativity and organizational innovation. Companies can literally scare their employees into mediocrity. Compliance is not the only way that companies can ensure that creativity and innovation are driven out of the workplace. Over-regulation of the work process, and centralization of authority can also be anathema to creativity.
In fact, many companies inadvertently go out of their way to create work environments that are toxic to innovation; and then wonder why employee morale is not all it should be, or why the company is being out-maneuvered by smaller, newer, or less bridled companies. The problem is that, over time, companies tend to evolve into creativity-stifling stove pipes, where any creativity occurs only at the top of the organization. This is a hopeless approach, because true innovation is a function of creativity at all organizational levels; it cannot be imposed.
This report focuses on creativity and innovation in the workplace, and follows an earlier report on the future of work.2 In particular, it explores why exercises in innovation that are mandated by executive leadership are doomed to failure; and why designing an environment where creativity is encouraged at the lowest levels of the organization can yield significant improvements in innovative outcomes. Companies that are interested in growing business through innovation will be interested in this discussion.
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