7 Easy Tricks to Kill Innovation on Your Team

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Innovation is a natural skill in human beings—that’s how we moved from the Stone Age to the Space Age. The corporate world, however, seems like it’s in a different universe, where everyone wants innovation but appears to be racing to kill it. Here are a few easy-to-use tricks for you to join the race.

1. Focus on the quarter

Make sure you’re not allowing your team to think beyond a quarter. Quarterly results are dear to CEOs. So only focus on the next quarterly result and make sure everyone on your team does too.  

2. Be Impatient

Patience is a weapon of lethargic people. You should never allow it to develop in your team. Any project or idea that takes time to materialize should not be your cup of tea. Let your team members continue to focus on your short-term goals.

3. Keep the team busy

You should be a very strict taskmaster. Check what time your team comes in and leaves for the day, and all the activities they do in between to ensure they are continuously busy in day-to-day activities. Keep their task list overflowing so that no room is left for any free time or “blue sky” thinking.

4. Maintain order

You should lay down strict processes and not allow any deviation at any cost. Teams must follow the process even if it is not required. You never know how a simple deviation could turn out to be an innovation. Explain to your team that doing things differently is the job of other teams!

5. Stay safe

Just in case the above suggestions do not impress you enough, and some little spark in the corner of your heart wants to allow a deviation, let me warn you—they all are full of risks. Risks mean uncertainty that can put your project in trouble or jeopardize your dearest short-term goals. They can even hit your reputation of consistently delivering linear results. You should play it safe by taking the routine paths already proven by others.

6. Don’t listen

Listening will be seriously injurious. If anyone comes to you suggesting a solution to a problem or a new way of doing something, don’t listen. Sometimes, you may be tempted, especially if someone’s sharing success stories. But ignore it all, lest innovation seeps in. If anyone suggests any idea, reject it immediately, giving a very routine reason, such as “it will not work in our project.” You should not give any new reason, otherwise it will appear that you are doing some innovation.

7. Reward only the million-dollar idea

Rewards are precious and should be given to the best of the best people. If a stubborn team member implements a good idea despite all your efforts, immediately point out a flaw in it, ignoring everything else. If this person meets some early-stage failure, that’s an opportunity for you to explain to the team why they should not try new things. Thoughts of rewarding someone should not even occur to you until the idea is recognized by some external agency.

I’m being facetious, of course. My point is that breakthrough innovations are not harder in practice than many seem to think—but our day-to-day responsibilities and deadlines make it hard to step back and change thinking.

What do you think are the most common practices that prevent innovative thinking? How can they be avoided? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

Posted by Vivek Prakash on: March 05, 2016 10:05 PM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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At construction sites we have 'Not to do' checklist. Organisations may paste above points in the offices.

Good ideas however, innovation and out of box have to be weighed against each other for application in small as well as major projects. At times innovation is being practiced but the person is not documenting the process this means that the project team requires to be encouraged to exercise out of box ideas which would ultimately join togather to achieve innovation in the project

very nice, little, ironic posting ... makes me smile ...thank you ...

Very Interesting... that ironic way of presenting the aspect is letting me thinking seriously about it.
Particurarly, I like " Patience is a weapon of lethargic people".

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing. I've particularly found your third point about keeping teams busy a very common problem in projects, especially when team members functional work is not redistributed. Naturally that also leads to a lack of innovation in the functional work too. A vicious circle!

Friends, Thank you very much for your comments. Nice to learn you find the sarcastic tone interesting. As such these are quite common things and we all are aware of them but any how knowingly or unknowingly we fall into these traps. Pankaj's suggestion appears interesting that we should pin up check list of such "Not to do" things to keep reminding us not to go that way.

That's a funny one but in the IT projects the project managers can't kill or promote innovation as they don't get involved in the work the team members are doing.

For instance the scenario at point 6 is very rare as the subject matter experts and not the project manager are required to come with solutions for problems and they don't need the project manager's approval for that. The SMEs can do whatever they want as long as they work towards building the required products or services.

So I guess project managers shouldn't worry too much about killing innovation as they can't.

One can kill innovation by just not listening to others and always start a meeting by saying "I think you are not knowing any thing about the issue"
The project team stops contributing ideas and innovation is literally killed
Try it

Great tips.

I would add mistrust to your team as a one of the tips. Consider how everyone in your team just wants to cheat you - not doing their work while thinking about new ideas, not adhering to processes...

@Adrian Carlogea - lucky you :). But this is not only about the PM - team interaction, but also the CEO - all company.

And believe me, if CEO and PM would decide it''s dangerous to let the team decide anything by itself - it will be over quickly enough. For this particular company, I mean :)

Natalia good idea of adding mistrust as one of the tips.

Samantha i agree with your point regarding keeping busy. Some project managers just can''t see someone sitting idle and would generate some task for that team member just for the sake of keeping him busy, Thus the team instead of brain storming for out of box solutions or ideas is more biased towards remaining engaged in the execution of work.

In my opinion innovation in projects does not mean that the team members should stop for a while from doing project work and use this time to think on inventing new things. Innovation in projects is when the team members are using new better ideas to do the existing project work.

The only way the project manager could prevent the team members from bringing innovation would be to stop them from using new ideas and forcing them to stick to the old proven ways of doing the work. This however requires good technical skills as well as the authority to give technical instructions and guidance to the team members, two things that many if not most of the project managers from the IT world lack.

The ones that could stop the team members from bringing innovation are the technical leaders such as technical managers, team leads or technical leads or whatever they are being called.

Also the nature of the work that has to be performed is extremely important because some requirements only need the completion of some trivial tasks so there isn't much room for innovation in this case.

Interesting - thanks for sharing

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