Inventing is Easy When We Refrain from Excessive Criticism
A lot of people scratch their heads when they look at a company like Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft that seemed to rise out of nowhere. Why is it that some strike it rich, and some do not? Mostly, it has to do with the attitude the founders of a company have toward inventing. Many company founders are extremely cautious. They do not want to risk their investors’ money on untried concepts. They look for ideas from established things. An example would be the founder of a new grocery store chain. There have been groceries for millennia. It is an established market. Most investors are willing to assist you if they are confident that you will have a market. The problem is established markets have high competition because they are obvious to all. Now is not the time to enter the retail business. It is also too late to enter the smartphone business. Apple and Samsung have already baked the cake.
In order to enjoy the fruits of investing that companies like Apple and Google have, you have to be the person to both invent and bake a new cake. There are few people who can invent a cake. There are even fewer who can both invent and bake a cake. This explains why most startups have mediocre success. They are too cautious. Many people know how to bake cakes, and so they merely take an established recipe, mix up the flavors a little, and then get to work baking it.
In order to set up an environment for inventing, you have to withhold judgment and threats from your organization. Companies that are overly critical and cautious do not succeed. They turn into an Enron or a Kodak. It is management’s responsibility to have an environment that encourages brainstorming and participation from every level of the organization. Many managers are overly controlling. They fear inefficiency, and so they throttle growth. If your management team is not tolerant enough, they will gradually turn your corporation into a machine where most participants are slaves of the time card.
Thomas Edison, one of the most famous modern inventors, attributed his success to hard work. Einstein said that there are multiple levels of intelligence, with the highest being simplicity. What characterizes many organizations is their lack of simplicity. Rules and policies take the place of human beings. When you treat humans like machines, they either revolt, or they act like them. Machines do not invent new things very well.
There are two things to consider in making a healthy environment for inventing:
- Control and Silence the Controlling People – These are the root of most organizational problems. They are the reason that humanity used the horse and the plow for thousands of years, rather than discovering aircraft and tractors sooner. Your organization must control and tame the over achievers who feel it is their duty to control those around them. Sadly, this is often the hardest task, because it is these over achievers who naturally rise to the top of a hierarchy because of their energy. However, their lack of humility leads to disorder and disaster in the long run. They are a wrench in the gears of your machine. They have injured creative and kind people. More affirming and tolerant people are like oil. You need the gears, but if you only have gears, they will eventually rust.
- Ask Questions – It is the responsibility of management to have a non-judgmental feedback solicitation from those under and around them. Your shop workers may have a wonderful time saving idea. If you never ask them, you will never know. Many subordinates live in fear of losing their job, because their managers rule them overly harshly. Do not use your position as a manager to abuse those under you. Use it to get great ideas that will improve the organization’s function. Remember the basic question words: who, what, when, where, why, how, and apply them liberally.
This is just the beginning. There are many other things to try. Your associates hold the answers.