Rather than just ‘coming together’, companies need to start coming up with bold new ideas
It’s amazing to me how many people in business believe that good meetings are meetings that result in yet another meeting. When I recently became aware that our own creative team had become bogged down in another such meeting syndrome, it occurred to me that what we really needed to do was to stop “putting our heads together” so much and get something actually accomplished.
At many of the companies I’ve worked with, I’ve seen employees wear themselves out with the ‘busy work’ of attending meeting after meeting. But does coming together like this mean they’re coming up with any bold new ideas, or just engaging in a lot of talk with little or no action?
Do you ever feel the actual fear of actually suggesting or actually doing something? I believe that many times in corporate environments the old adage “no good deed goes unpunished” becomes “no good idea or good step forward goes unpunished.” Now, perhaps I’m being overly critical here to make a point: that my experience with many big companies is that “the great idea” person who moves things forward usually isn’t the one who is considered to be the great employee. More often, the one who checks with legal and stays within budget is the one that gets all the credit.
To me, something is inherently wrong with this picture. Now, I am not advocating illegal activity or reckless spending, but I am being an advocate for those who initiate action and innovation. I recently challenged a company’s managers on why they weren’t really doing anything edgy on social media to make the organization appear more vibrant and full of life. The response was that every idea they come up with requires a complete return-on-investment analysis, which can be really difficult, so even if they have a good idea, it just means extra work in having to quantify and measure the potentials and getting legal and budget approval. From their perspective, it just wasn’t worth it, so better to stay with the status quo and just have another meeting. UGGH!!
Big corporations simply have to break out of this fear of action and innovation. But how? One solution might be to set up a “Corporate Innovation and Action Initiative”– one whose message is, “we want our employees to make mistakes, we want them to be reprimanded by legal, we want innovation to drive a small budget issue.” Or better yet, “Hey, let’s have some fun and create some chaos.” While that might sound a little wild and crazy, the results could be phenomenal!
So if you’re employed by a big corporate entity, there’s a couple things I would love you to do for the next week. Each day, come up with a new creative or crazy idea for your team, your department or for one or more of your company’s products. Then push it up the ladder, either directly via an email or else — most preferably — in a meeting, where you can gauge the response and test the waters for the fear factor. See if you can personally launch that Corporate Innovation and Action Initiative — and most important, if you actually get anything accomplished in the meeting, or just end up scheduling another.
One of the companies I really admire for its innovation is 3M, many of whose employees I’ve met with. It’s what I would call a real, live working model of the kind of thing I’m talking about (and it’s been that way for 50 years). The article by Rita Shor that you can read here reflects the 3M philosophy, which in my opinion is one every big company would do well to emulate.