There are few things in life that so closely resemble grinding, hope-abandoned, terminally-doomed, abject misery as being stuck in a room full of deeply conservative, corporate fan-boy, conventional thinkers hell bent on brainstorming new ideas.
Stick me with a pointy white board marker and let me bleed! Death by PowerPoint, followed by the biggest shot in the room pontificating on how we all need to be more creative, followed immediately by his golden words of discouragement and improvised opinions on why the ideas raised in the room can never possibly work. The big shots segue from wanting innovation to killing it stone dead without missing a beat. The blow by blow destruction of every idea that isn’t the executive’s own is utter carnage writ large. It’s like watching a car accident in progress, but in extreme slow motion.
The clock on the wall ticks so slowly. Time dilation exists! How many times have I been in blue sky meetings where the firmament suddenly turns a Stalingrad shade of grey and everybody sits on their hands? Too many. Please, God, never again.
Why would you volunteer your best ideas to people like these and in such a bull ring? Few of us are genuine kamikazes. Nobody wants their finest contributions stabbed publicly for blood sport.
The thing about creativity and innovation is that it is not something you can pound on the desk and demand. Creativity and innovation are arts. Invention is an aesthetic statement. If somebody comes up with a genuinely good idea, that might not be immediately apparent. Ideas need to be nurtured, not crushed to death in an egocentric power-play, designed only to stamp one’s authority on the underlings in the room.
If somebody, heaven forbid, manages to surface a good idea in one of these jolly soirees, the very next mistake that the beloved leader makes is to imagine that he can immediately own the idea. What a conceit that is! The idea has a life of its own and it knows its birth mother. Take an idea out of its nursery and it will starve and die of thirst faster than a delicate flower in the Sahara desert. The minds of uncreative executives are parched soil in which to plant the seeds of ideas.
Everybody wants innovation. Everybody recognises that it’s the only way to restore the bottom line, by reviving the top line. Everybody wants some right now! But nobody wants to take the risk. Who was it that came up with the idea of waiting till the other guys take all the risks? You can’t be second in innovation, by definition.
It’s no wonder that giant corporations can be brought to their knees by some bright guys in a garage, even when the corporations play dirty. With their corporate mind set so firmly locked down, innovation doesn’t stand a chance anywhere within thirty miles of headquarters.
So the prognosis for innovation and creativity in the corporate world is poor indeed, unless the executives can learn to trust in their wild-eyed, unconventional, eccentric, embarrassing, difficult, heretical, right-brained, crazy people and shut up and listen while the genuinely creative creatures in their midst show them just how this stuff is actually done.
If we can get to that point, then maybe we can also get to the point where innovators are not robbed at gunpoint for their intellectual property and cut out of the profits from their greatest ideas. The executives never have to donate their most valuable skills and assets for the corporate good (usually the exact opposite), but the inventors in the company always do.
Was that a pig I just saw fly by?