How to Kill Creativity – Part I17. Mai, 2011
I just finished my last MBA elective called B822 “Innovation, Creativity and Change” at the Open University Business School. (Part of the reason why it was a bit more quiet in my blog than usual). I’d highly recommend this course to anyone interested in bringing out creativity in themselves or their teams.
During these studies I came across a paper called “How to kill creativity” by Teresa Amabile. (It was originally published in Harvard Business Review, September 1998. You can probably find it in the HBR online archives, I am not allowed to share my copy due to copyright restrictions.)
In her earlier studies, she identified three components necessary for bringing out creativity in people:
- Creative thinking skills, and
The latter one, motivation (very intrinsic!), is the piece that can be best influenced by managers and has profound impact.
With a bit of humor, she suggests exemplary managerial practices in six areas that managers who want to purge all signs of creativity from their teams should follow:
- Challenge - “Marry” the most eligible employee without any further thought to the most eligible (i.e. most urgent and open) assignment.
- Freedom – Make sure to change goals frequently or don’t define them clearly at all. Grant autonomy in the name only (i.e. prescribe process and make it risky for your staff to diverge).
- Resources – Impose fake or totally impossible timelines.
- Work-group features - Assemble totally homogeneous teams. Diversity is dangerous for team harmony ;)
- Supervisory encouragement - Look for reasons NOT to use an idea, wait for a few weeks and then put the person with the idea through an excruciating critique.
- Organizational support – nurture politics and make sure to undermine all efforts of knowledge sharing.
These are a few examples, I’m sure you’ve come across these and similar ones. Care to comment and share your experiences?
I’ll follow up in a few days with the second part which summarizes recommendations for practices managers should follow to make their work environment more creative.
And b.t.w. creativity here has a pretty wide application, not just required for developing new products or services. It also includes capabilities to improve business operations, business model or strategy and is therefore required in basically any organization in today’s business world.
I look forward to your comments, and will post part II soon.