Rosabeth Moss Kanter has the nine rules many businesses follow:
- Be suspicious of any new idea from below — because it’s new, and because it’s from below. After all, if the idea were any good, we at the top would have thought of it already.
- Invoke history. If a new idea comes up for discussion, find a precedent in a an earlier idea that didn’t work, remind everyone of that bad past experience. Those who have been around a long time know that we tried it before, so it won’t work this time either.
- Keep people really busy. If people seem to have free time, load them with more work.
- In the name of excellence, encourage cut-throat competition. Get groups to critique and challenge each other’s proposals, preferably in public forums, and then declare winters and losers.
- Stress predictability above all. Count everything that can be counted, and do it as often as possible. Sweep any surplus into master accounts, and eliminate any slack. Favor exact plans and guarantees of success. Don’t credit people with exceeding their targets because that would just undermine planning. Insist that all procedures be followed.
- Confine discussion of strategies and plans to a small circle of trusted advisors. Then announce big decisions in full-blown form. This ensures that no one will start anything new because they never know what new orders will be coming down from the top.
- Act as though punishing failure motivates success. Practice public humiliation, making object lessons out of those who fail to meet expectations. Everyone will know that risk-taking is bad.
- Blame problems on the incompetent people below — their weak skills and poor work ethic. Complain frequently about the low quality of the talent pool today. If that doesn’t undermine self-confidence, it will undermine faith in anyone else’s ideas.
- Above all, never forget that we got to the top because we already know everything there is to know about this business.
Yep, several of the companies I’ve worked for followed most or all of these rules … to suppress creativity and innovation. Worked a treat, too.