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27 Sep 2012

Creative Innovation (Pt 8): Guidelines over Rules

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Creative Innovation

Using guidelines over rules can help unleash creativity and innovation.

The culture we develop greatly influences employees. An innovative culture will encourage employees to be innovative. All right, how do we do that? Charlan Nemeth’s (University of California at Berkeley) and Matthew Feinberg’s paper, “The ‘Rules’ of Brainstorming: An Impediment to Creativity?” gives us an insight with this conclusion:

Our finding that rules may impair creativity seems consistent with the argument that creativity stems from a culture or atmosphere of freedom (Nemeth, 1997). In fact, a workplace where rules are not made salient merges well with an environment where one feels free to express ideas or dissent against norms. Thus, organizations aiming for a culture of innovation might find it useful to suppress the imposition of rules.

People are most creative when relaxed. Rules require conscious awareness by followers and encourage over thinking which retards creativity. Moreover, the more people feel they are being told what to do, the more resistant they become to change. Since change is inherent to innovation, it follows they will resist change by ceasing to be innovative.

Thus, we need to beware of what we say if we wish to promote an innovative culture. We can begin to set the right mood by referring to rules as guidelines. If words such as ““think” and “feel” can alter the way people respond to questions, then words like “rules” and “guidelines” can influence whether people feel they have no room for deviation or some room.

When we manage people, they will tend to become what we tell them they are. This means being very cognizant of our words and of how we communicate them. It’s the same reason why marketers and politicians angst over their words: they matter.

Therefore, emphasize guidelines over rules to develop your innovative culture.


Series Navigation<< Creative Innovation (Pt 7): ConflictCreative Innovation (Pt 9): Pessimism’s Positivity >>

5 Responses

  1. Pingback : Creative Innovation (Pt 8): Guidelines over Rul...

    1. Mike Lehr

      I’m laughing, Marilyn. You are SO right! It’s like we’re assuming they will strive to come up with bad ideas. Many times too, the “bad” ideas lead the group down the path of better and better ideas. A professor who used a technique of mine in his class found that even though some ridiculously funny and unrealistic ideas were generated, it put the class in a relaxed mood more conducive to problem solving. Consequently, their ideas became more creative while becoming more practical too. Yes, don’t throw out the “bad” ideas.

  2. Marilyn Mehlmann

    Sometimes especially with children I offer a prize for the craziest idea. Often it turns out they don’t find any ideas really crazy…

  3. Pingback : We Are Innovation Therefore Leaders | Leadership Matters

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