How Management Kills Innovation

I have worked for over 15 years in the technology sector and consider myself a student of idea maturation and innovation. Mainly in terms of fostering teams to create innovative approaches to problem solving. While creating a company culture that is conducive to improving upon and generating new ideas.

 

Some of my more recent experiences in the last few years have encouraged me to sit down and write this post regarding the things I have seen that “management” does to hinder innovation and adversely impact company moral unintentionally (of course).

Negative traditional management actions:

  • Lack of communication
  • Leaving the “troops” out of decision making
  • Creating a wall between management and workers
  • Walling off project by stake holder (producer/manager)
  • Pigeon holing

 

One of the main things I have noticed is the lack of general communication with the teams that actually do the work. You have management communicating with other management. But at the same time leaving the developers or other workers in the dark as to even the most simple knowledge in regards to the business and how well (or poorly) it is doing. I have spoken with many people who have no clue how a product is doing because they are not told. So they may make the wrong assumption and be looking for another gig when where they are is actually doing well.

The other side effect from this is the retention of good ideas by those same workers who assume that management is uninterested in their ideas, thoughts, and opinions because they never bothered to ask. So a Jr. Dev might have the best idea ever but keeps it to themselves out of fear. Or figures they will just keep that idea to do on their own. This can be detrimental to a company who doesn’t exploit the intellectual capital they already have. Instead many companies bring in consultants and spend even more money when they just need to include their entire workforce.

When I say leave the “troops” out of the decision making process I am referring to not allowing or even thinking to include the team as a whole in helping to drive the company/product forward. There is a common issue in companies where I have worked that the management or stake holder(s) wants to have total control over the direction of the project and to their own detriment ignore or discourage team members from having input. I have been in meetings where the stake holder gets downright insulted by others asking about why there is not X or Y feature when it is a perfectly valid question. This is an example of management working against themselves.

Company culture is a very popular topic and people make livings from analyzing what makes a good start-up and how the culture affects that success or failure. A simple thing I do is take part in lunches with team members as well as those in other teams. This creates a relaxed environment where they are more open to sharing ideas and how they feel about the company, project, or management. While I see other C-level people avoid going to lunch with anyone else but each other. Something this simple can cause resentment and strife amongst the ranks and rightly so.

In order to have a successful company you need to move away from old-school thinking in terms of separating yourself from the people that make your company a success.

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