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6 workplace policies killing your creativity -- and fun

Greg Kihlstrom
6 workplace policies killing your creativity -- and fun Greg Kihlstrom

We all know that great work is the result of creativity. However, many organizations don't do a great job of enabling great ideas to come to light. By perpetuating bad practices that hinder teams from working well together, these companies are missing out on the benefits that a creative environment brings.

6 workplace policies killing your creativity -- and fun

How does an organization foster the type of culture that has the freedom, energy, and collaborative spirit to produce amazing ideas? There are several things to avoid and practices you should stop if you want to accomplish this. In this article, we are going to look at a few policies and workplace practices that kill creativity and the fun of coming up with great ideas.

Restrictive brainstorming

The brainstorm session is a staple of the creative process. Despite it being used by most companies, many are not using this tool as effectively as they can, and some are approaching it in a way that is actually detrimental to the task at hand.

ACM.org states a couple things to keep in mind when brainstorming: "Defer judgment about the quality of ideas (often expressed as 'no criticism' of ideas). Quantity, not quality, is the goal of brainstorming."

It's important to choose the right groups of people to brainstorm with each other, as well as to make sure to establish ground rules. These can include making it clear not to criticize ideas as well as not to linger too long on a single topic.

Banning social networks

It seems impossible that companies are still doing this in this highly connected day and age, but many organizations are banning employees from using social networks in the office -- or severely limiting the time spent on them.

This is despite several studies that show using social technologies could help boost employee productivity by 25 percent or more. One of these, from McKinsey, says the following: "When companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information."

Another benefit of allowing social networks is that they allow your employees to easily access a wealth of information and ideas in a short amount of time. Banning social networks is akin to banning Google for some organizations. You would be cutting out a valuable research tool.

Lack of diversity

A great team is made up of people with different backgrounds, skillsets, years of experience, to name a few things. If you feel like you keep getting the same old ideas, take a look at the team that you are getting them from.

The MBA blog puts it this way:

People who are alike generally get along well, but that's not always a great thing when it comes to creativity. It also means that they may be thinking many of the same things and won't have disagreements that will push and challenge members of the group to do something exceptional.

What would change if you added a new element to your team or brought someone in who may have a completely new or different perspective on things?

No democracy of ideas

Great managers understand that great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere. The most junior person on the team might have the best new idea for that marketing campaign you are working on. Organizations that don't provide an open forum for everyone on the team to offer ideas and suggestions are short-changing themselves.

Make sure to help your entire team understand that their ideas are welcome. Even if there are some ideas that are not quite as relevant shared by members of your team, by providing some clear feedback and direction to them, you will be helping them to grow, think more strategically, and truly assist you in coming up with great creative ideas.

Just as we discussed with brainstorming sessions, understand that there might be a kernel of a great idea in the thoughts that come from someone who may be completely new to the subject matter, client, or project you are working on. Learn to foster these ideas and the type of environment that these ideas are created in.


Nothing sucks the creativity out of a talented individual like being micromanaged. Good managers understand that great employees need direction, but they don't need to be told every step to take in order to accomplish something.

How do you prevent micromanagement? The MBA blog puts it this way:

Micro-management breeds frustration, wastes time, and ultimately kills morale as employees feel that you don't trust them to get their jobs done right and on time. Step back and provide consistent guidance if you really want to foster a creative environment in the workplace.

When good employees are trusted to do amazing work, great things can happen. Avoiding micromanagement doesn't mean avoiding management, either. Learn to understand the difference between offering helpful, regular feedback and being overbearing and interfering with the creative process.

Lack of clear goals

Despite our talk of an open brainstorming process, democracy of ideas, and other items that help to foster an open creative process, it is also important to understand that creativity often thrives when there are some clear goals and directions provided.

This means that leaders need to establish a clear criterion for success. Teresa Amabile, in Harvard Business Review, says the following: "Creativity thrives when managers let people decide how to climb a mountain; they needn't, however, let employees choose which one."

When there is a clear endpoint and set of criteria for success, employees can be free to use their creativity to discover the methods with which to achieve that success. It is sometimes within constraints that the best creative is produced.


I hope this helps you and your team have more successful creative endeavors. By paying attention to a few things that hinder creativity and acting to make changes to your team and your organization, you can have much more successful outcomes for the solutions you create.

Greg Kihlström is founder and CEO of Carousel30.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


to leave comments.

Commenter: Alan Harris

2015, June 03

Really great to see contributions like this. The industry has become far too stifling and often times we as managers, CEOs, and owners overlook important things like moral and fostering an open environment where ideas can flow freely and we can all truly excel as a team. Here is an interesting case study I stumbled upon: