There are creative techniques that embrace negativity. In this podcast I describe one technique that you can use either on your own or with a group of people. If you have any negative people around you then they can help you greatly without actually realising it.
Having recently embarked on some work for a well-known household name I have felt the effect of some very rigid and somewhat unhelpful tools for measuring productivity. There has also been a huge outburst in the media here in the UK about Sports Direct and their draconian monitoring of the productivity of warehouse workers.
We now have the ability (but more worryingly the desire) to see how fast our employees walk, how long their toilet breaks are and how many widgets they can carry per hour. This sort of measurement focuses only on actions that the employer has previously determined will help the business, not on actions that the employer has forgotten about (productivity failure there for the board) or on problem-solving and thinking.
What should happen if an employee takes the time to stop and think (and possibly find an improved way of doing things) in a warehouse? What if he or she could suggest moving the racks of widgets so that they and their colleagues do not have to walk so far in a day? Potentially an employer is removing the likelihood of the business becoming more productive!
So productivity tools do not measure the usefulness of thinking!
There are many bad things about measuring productivity, enough perhaps to write a book about but here are a couple more to get you thinking.
In order to foster a culture of innovation we need to embrace ambiguity and we often have to perform non-standard activities – we need to take risks. Activities such as prototyping or research are often unplanned with uncertain outcomes. Our productivity measurement machine would not like this. Do you think this is helpful to our innovation efforts or will most employees conform because it maximises their pay at the end of the month?
Core features of innovation are killed by productivity tools!
Innovation is a team or perhaps company-wide activity but our monster measurement tools are usually looking at what individual employees are doing. This does not recognise the fact that individuals contribute in different ways or more importantly that when an employee has an off day his or her colleagues can rally round and help. No, we must let poorly performing individuals drown apparently.
Productivity tools are looking at the wrong things!
These are just a few ideas on why such tools may not help. If you use any tools to help measure productivity or the performance of employees please take the time to think about what you want to achieve, and why. More importantly think about what these tools could be stopping you from achieving (thinking, team working, less stress, innovation …).
Oh, and I forgot to say that simply introducing such a system introduces an overhead anyway (not good for productivity is it?).
Often there is no budget for innovation so it can be difficult to make innovation part of everyday life when the bean counters demand that everything is charged to a cost centre.
This is the big dilemma, the trade-off between money and the time that we need to ‘steal’.
As CEO, if you want people to be creative, you must be prepared to implement their viable ideas. Employees will soon work out that your support of creativity is a sham and will hold back on the creativity. After all, what’s the point in making the effort to develop and promote ideas if they just get ignored?
Surely not, I hear you cry, we must get everything nailed down or it will be chaos here! I wouldn’t go as far as chaos but things might be a little different.
Can I suggest that it is not actually ambiguity that is the issue here but you, or perhaps your workforce. Imagine that you have two or maybe three potential courses of action to follow. Normally as a business you might say ‘lets get our strategy sorted and follow it’. You then follow a particular course of action which turns out to be less than fruitful because of some changes in external circumstances.
Let us suppose that your strategy was to keep open several potential options and to keep evaluating them until it was time to make a definite decision. During this period there was a change in circumstances and you selected an appropriate strategy and make a huge profit!
This is not difficult as an organisation but there will be individuals who do have issues with this. Sponsors of innovation projects might be breathing down your neck asking for status reports and they are not keen on your reply of ‘we are just sitting here watching and waiting’.
When asked about financial targets, your reply might be ‘well we are not really sure’.
So you can see that individuals might need some help in living with ambiguity or as I like to call it ‘living with looseness’ but ambiguity can be used to your advantage. Go on give it a try across your business.