How your business may be attacking innovative thinking and stifling creativity (and morale)
White blood cells, also called leukocytes or leucocytes, are the cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders (thanks Wikipedia). Basically they are deployed like quick reaction troops to an area of the body that has received an injury and/or foreign body in order to attack and/or contain it. They help keep you healthy and aid the body’s healing process. (I’ve simplified this but you get the basic idea).
I have witnessed many a large corporate organisation who do exactly the same thing but with a negative effect.
One particular large corporation has a great (on the face of it) strategy to recruit graduates and innovative, forward thinking people. Basically the recruitment strap lines fall under the general direction of, “come and work for us, we love free thinking and innovative ideas – let us develop you whilst we use your amazing new thinking to take our company forward”.
The reality however is very different. When the new forward thinking people are in the door all of a sudden the company deploys its white blood cells in an attempt to contain this radical new thinking.
You will hear things like, “it’s a bit too different for us”, “no, we’ve always done it this way”, “that will never work”, “it wasn’t my idea so therefore it isn’t really right”.
What happens? These brilliant forward thinking and innovative people will of course leave and go and work for an organisation that does utilise their creative thinking and one that does indeed develop them. In other words, a company who actually does what it says on the tin (its marketing and recruitment material). Meanwhile back in the old world business, all the white blood cells have gathered and regrouped and nothing changes (and the bad stuff isn’t healed).
This is about the congruence between the external perception and the internal culture. Do they actually match at all, or are the marketing and recruitment campaigns just words with no real substance?
Imagine this like a ladder. The left hand upright is your internal stuff like structure, policies and procedures, people and values. The right hand upright of the ladder is all the external facing things like brand, marketing, customer perception etc. The top of the ladder is the outputs/results of the organisation. If the two sides of the ladder don’t match then the rungs of the ladder that ultimately get you to the top (outcomes/results) don’t work and the whole thing becomes lop-sided or worse still, collapses completely.
Most of this deployment of white blood cells in business is due to a restrictive culture that has been set in place and then built up over many years. Some of the inability to truly use innovative ideas from new blood in a business is down to fear.
Let’s get business leaders to move away from this thinking and let’s start recruiting, and in turn, leading people with a view that we don’t know all the answers. Leaders need to accept new and different thinking and adopt a way of mixing it in with some of the ingrained older stuff that still works well whilst not putting barriers in the way of people's ability to raise the bar with their thinking (coaching is good for this of course).
Remove egos and talk like you are right but listen like you are wrong.
Start using your business’s white blood cells to challenge and contain hindering thinking, resistance to change, inefficiency and negativity. Use your new blood to help your business heal and grow!