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Innovators and the Department of No

February 28, 2007, 5:54 AM

Dr_no Liz Ryan of Business Week explains that it is important to keep your team innovative, even when you're ixnay-ing their creative ideas on a regular basis. For managers, it means encouraging the free flow of ideas, while simultaneously finding ways to squelch the least practical ones in as constructive a manner as possible:

"...When employees truly care about what they're doing, beyond the simple need to pay the rent or the mortgage, everybody wins. The work is more fulfilling for employees, and the company gets the best part of its workers' brains and creative juices deployed on its projects.

The only downside to having engaged employees is that once you've asked for the full use of your team members' intellects, you have to also let them go to town. It's no good to say, "We want all of your brain cells put to work on this project and all of your creative ideas," and then squash those ideas like bedbugs.

So engagement is a two-way street for managers. If you ask for your employees' passion and brains, you have to actually make use of them. That's one of the reasons why managing knowledge workers is a complicated task. Obviously, not every idea from every employee will win the day, but it's important to keep asking for input and to keep incorporating it whenever doing so makes sense. And when employees' well-intentioned contributions aren't exactly what's called for, it's important to say so—and say why."

As Liz points out, it's much easier to say "Great idea! Let's roll with it!" when a truly innovative solution has been put forward by someone on the team, than it is to take the time to explain why an employee's favorite idea is being relegated to the back burner. The more time and energy a person has put into the creative idea, the harder it is to reject the idea. Moreover, the harder it is for that person to come up with innovative ideas in the future. With that in mind, Liz provides a few tips and tricks for managers as they deal with this problem. (Hint: never come out and say "NO" at the outset)

[image: James Bond in "Dr. No"]

 

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