It can be very frustrating when people don’t use their initiative at work to solve problems or to be creative. Do you sometimes feel your staff leave their brains in the car park?
There are a number of reasons people sometimes switch off their intelligence and put on their stupid hat when they arrive at work:
1) Our understanding of organisations encourages this.
In an unconscious way we see an organization as a head and a body. The head decides what to do and the body follows instructions. Thinking is viewed as a management skill. Non-managerial staff refer to this when they say ‘I’m not paid to think’.
2) It’s not safe to make suggestions.
Perhaps someone was publicly humiliated when they made a suggestion. Or maybe when their idea ‘failed’, perhaps through no fault of their own, they found themselves being blamed. A few experiences like this and the workforce quickly decides it’s safer to keep your thoughts to yourself.
3) There is no effective way to contribute.
Sometimes the challenge is the lack of a suitable process to enable a connection between those aware of the problem, those aware of possible solutions, and those holding sufficient power and influence to agree to changes in working practice. Without these connections it is very difficult for people to act as an ‘intelligent system’.
4) Fruitful interaction is inhibited.
For example, in some organisational environments it is frowned upon for people to be away from their desks or designated work areas. This can inhibit the ability of people to problem-solve at a local level. So instead the problem is escalated up the line.
5) Goodwill has been withdrawn.
When people feel badly or unfairly treated the low risk silent protest is the withdrawal of good will. ‘Let them (management) make stupid decisions, what do I care?’ Once relations have fallen to this low, people will passively implement instructions they know to be potentially damaging.
So what can be done to release the individual and collective intelligence of all organisational members?
- Change the organisational metaphor.
- Encourage initiative and contributory behaviour.
- Use co-creative problem-solving processes.
- Encourage local problem-solving and decision-making.
- Build social capital and good relations.
By Sarah Lewis M.Sc. C.Psychol, founder of Appreciating Change