How to Make Sure Good Ideas Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle In 2007 Joseph Golan, a division leader at Elop, an Israeli electro-optics company, faced a challenge. As an experienced manager, he knew that his manufacturing and operation division’s success depended on getting creative ideas from his employees. But he also realized that the existing system was not working as needed. Only a relatively small group of employees submitted ideas through the system, which required them to prove the economic advantage of their ideas through a lengthy and complicated process. Over time, employees learned that developing and submitting new ideas was not worth the effort.
Over the past three decades, we have researched how leaders motivate their employees to come up with creative solutions to organizational problems. We’ve studied stereotypically “creative” firms, like design, R&D, and information technology companies, but we’ve also researched stereotypically “uncreative” environments, like Golan’s manufacturing plant at Elop (which is part of Elbit ISTAR). As you might expect, our studies have revealed that encouraging creativity can backfire if employees lack the resources, support, or mechanisms to develop and implement their ideas. Indeed, when managers urge employees to invest extra effort in creativity, but then reject their ideas (often because they are single-mindedly focused on productivity and efficiency), employees become frustrated and their creativity wanes over time. As a result, innovation can stall. As part of our quest to discover how employee creativity can be unleashed and sustained, we analyzed data collected over nine years on the management system for creativity that Golan developed to address the problem he saw in his manufacturing division at Elop — a company where
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- Winter '17
- Management, Joseph Golan