With paper shredding in the news, be aware there are shredders and then there are shredders: Ordinary shredders reduce paper to strips; cross-cut shredders, which are more expensive, cut the paper into tiny bits and provide greater security.
Despite the claims of shredder manufacturers who want you to spend more money on their products, do you really need the extra security? The fact is that when several batches of stripped paper are intermixed, it’s nearly impossible to reassemble them. So in most cases ordinary shredders are good enough—as long as the shredded batches are combined.
Just as you can stifle creativity with rigidity, you can nurture it with acceptance. But you can’t always be an open, accepting executive.
For example, how many organizations can afford to invest in every new idea that an innovative employee brings forward? Likewise, how many organizations can afford to refuse to invest in new ideas?
The answer to this apparent conundrum, as in so many other areas, is to use moderation: Accept new ideas in moderation and test them with limits. It seems so simple yet few organizations give it more than lip service.
So, instead of saying yes to or nay-saying every innovation, consider running small-scale tests. If an idea seems to work, scale it up a bit and test again. Keep the investment small and carefully monitor the results. Important: When a test succeeds, reward the innovator.
Say “No” to Yes-Men
Consensus has its value. But too much consensus, especially when staffers are afraid to raise an objection, debilitates an organization.
For example, the boss has a less-than-bright idea and subordinates, who dread losing their jobs or not being considered “team players,” keep still. But sometimes that fear is unjustified. Sometimes a charismatic, fast-track, aggressive supervisor comes on so strongly that even self-assured critics are so won over by his or her personality that they go with the flow.
Sure, the boss can lecture the staff about how important it is not to be a yes-man, how valid criticism is vital to a business, that good ideas often develop from critical questions raised about a company process. But, if truth be told, such lectures aren’t very convincing to shy, conflict-averse employees.
So what’s a good supervisor to do if he or she wants to inspire the staff to be independent thinkers?
Here’s one idea, and while it’s not perfect and may even be somewhat manipulative, it does address the issue and it hurts no one: Every now and then say something to the staff that is clearly wrong or raise an idea that is basically flawed and see who rises to the challenge.
The test will disclose lots about the candidness of individuals and the health of your organization. You may want to use what you learn from this exercise during informal talks with those on your staff whose intelligence you admire but whose fear of conflict impedes their true value. That’s one way a supervisor can mentor staff members.
|An Invitation |
The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).
Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.