What kills innovation at work?

Any company that wishes to grow should care a great deal about innovation

What kills innovation at work?

by Justin Reynolds

Any company that wishes to grow should care a great deal about innovation.

That’s because innovative companies develop more breakthrough products, gain more market share, and deliver better service than their counterparts — all of which creates a legion of loyal customers and a healthier bottom line.

According to a recent study by Tech Pro Research, 92% of organizations understand the importance of innovation. But for a variety of reasons, a vast majority of them have been unable to truly integrate it into their company culture.

Why is that? What kills innovation? Here are four of the major reasons why innovation dies at many companies:

1. Unnecessary meetings
As it stands now, many of today’s workers have too much on their plates. According to our Engagement Report, nearly 70% of employees say they have a difficult time getting all their work done every week. Add any number of unnecessary meetings into the mix, and it becomes that much harder for employees to handle their regular job responsibilities — not to mention any innovation that could occur outside of the regular scope of their work.

What’s more, while companies may have some success with “brainstorming meetings,” innovation, for the most part, can never be forced. It needs to occur organically.

2. Bad managers
While some managers understand the importance of letting their employees pursue pet projects and tackle work in other departments at least occasionally, many are content with keeping their workers confined to what’s listed in their job description. Such an approach to management clearly stifles innovation.

Workers may come up with brilliant ideas, but because they’re forced to stick to tackling their routine responsibilities, those ideas never see the light of day. Additionally, when employees from two different departments are allowed to work on something together, the creative juices can start flowing. Both parties benefit from a fresh perspective and can see things they otherwise might not have noticed.

3. The lack of flexibility
Many companies are simply not agile enough to innovate. Let’s say an employee comes up with a game-changing idea that their manager loves. The manager then takes that idea to their superiors, who also think it’s great. But before anything can be done with it, other departments will have to sign off on it. Unfortunately, those department heads are either swamped with other responsibilities or have other priorities, and the great idea continues to collect dust.

If organizations wish to innovate, they must be flexible enough to quickly respond to new ideas before their competitors do. It’s that simple.

4. Cultures of fear
At some organizations, employees may routinely come up with would-be fantastic ideas only to keep them in their heads for fear of being rejected or drawing the ire of their managers who perceive their workers to be stepping on their toes.

If a company truly wants to be innovative, it must support innovation to the highest degree. Employees should be thoroughly encouraged to come up with new ideas as often as they can and share them with management. Build a culture that celebrates innovation, and employees will undoubtedly think outside the box more often than they otherwise would.

This article by Justin Reynolds originally appeared in TINYpulse.