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Corporations Want Innovative Ideas

Today’s Lie of the Day is one that comes to us via some of the companies we work for, and is available as both a podcast and as an article. 

Large corporations are on the lookout for innovation.  It’s a great buzzword I hear over and over – they want clever ideas, clever thoughts, the next great idea….but some of them don’t seem realize that they are stomping out innovation with processes and regulations. 

The bulk of innovation sewage (the place where great ideas get stopped up), in my opinion, comes from the expectations and judgements of where ideas should come from, and how they should look.  I am referring to two areas:


1 – how a person looks, and behaves and
2 – levels of leadership

Both these areas have a direct impact on whether an idea is well received and implemented, or shut down.

The basic truth about innovation is that it usually relies on an environment that supports creativity. 

When it comes to dress and behavior, different people find creativity in different ways.  Some spike their hair, some write on their t-shirts, others wear bright nail polish or dye their hair brighter.  Unfortunately, many of these creative expressions are not acceptable in corporate.  Think about my website – it’s pretty creative, and I’ve got a lot of ideas, but would you consider my website fitting the typical corporate mold?  (Probably not!) And since it doesn’t, are you listening to the judgments that just entered your mind about a corporate mold?  It’s hard to be innovative when you’re in mold, and not just because of its look and smell….budump-buh!   And, isn’t it ironic, for those of you that may see my site as funny and creative, that you wouldn’t naturally line me up with corporate?  And that’s just because I’ve been creative and innovative in an outside-the-box way, which, hello!, is just what corporate said they wanted! Interesting paradox, isn’t it? 

When you’re supposed to dress, talk and act like everyone else, where does originality have a shot? That feels to me like telling someone to stay in the box, but think outside it, which is mighty tough when you feel constantly boxed in

I have to wonder if lots of employees get great ideas when they’re home, or driving or cooking their favorite meal because they can be comfortable being themselves.   

At the end of the day, an employee that dresses funny or brightly won’t seem so bad when they bring you an idea that results in $20 million, will they?  So, is it more important that employees look and act corporate, or is it more important to create innovative solutions to problems that lead to increased profits? 

Now, certainly, we can take this conversation in many directions – should the slob who never cleans up his desk or showers and feels most innovative in the nude be allowed to scatter his belongings everywhere, shed his clothing and smell bad at work in the name of creativity?  Should the person that finds creativity in cursing every other word be allowed to walk around the office shouting expletives all day?  No, I’m not suggesting that harmful behavior be excused in the name of creativity.  What I am suggesting is that sometimes innovative people don’t look “normal” – they don’t necessarily wear suits and ties, speak corporate speak, or arrive to work on time.  They might just wear colorful clothing, spike their hair (yes it is possible to have clean hair that sticks up straight!) and work flexible hours. 

Innovation is only acceptable if it comes from the right level.

To my point about innovation and levels, I’ve noticed that in many companies, there are some exceptional ideas for innovation at the “bottom”.  Unfortunately, when lower level employees suggest an idea, one of two things generally happens –

  1. the great ideas are poached by that person’s leadership team, who take it over, implement it, advance their careers, and don’t give a drop of credit to the originator,  or,
  2. the employee is deemed a boat rocker, and discouraged from further suggestions. 

Either way, too frequently, the result is that these brilliant employees learn to keep great ideas to themselves

The employee experience is often fear-based – they end of feeling that suggesting an innovative idea could cost them their job.  Isn’t that ridiculous? 

It’s ironic to me that many of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about, and you’ve no doubt experienced it yourself.  I have to wonder if senior leadership in these companies are unaware of the problem, or choose to ignore it.  Either way, this rampant creative block is unfortunate for business, for leadership, and for the future of great ideas.

If you want things to be different, why force everyone to be the same?

I think it’s time that we honor and respect innovation for what it is – a creative path that can come from anyone, and anywhere.  Let’s throw titles, levels, and funky appearance judgments out the window when it comes to creative ideas.  In the realm of innovation, everyone should have a voice, that voice should be called forth, and it should be recognizedLet’s bridge the gap between leadership levels and let innovators be the driving force of innovation, rather than titles.

What’s your take on this?  Submit your comments below!  And, as always, feel free to submit your own lie of the day for consideration in a future blog post!


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