By Steve Eaton
Employees, emboldened by the approval of the creative paradox would go back to their supervisor and tell him or her their idea, adding that the creative paradox liked it. The middle-managers would try to find the creative paradox on the company organization chart but Gordon's title wasn’t there. Fearing he might be above them in the pecking order, the managers would often allow their employees to proceed with their creative idea just to be safe. Hallmark used a “creative paradox” to free up innovative ideas.
A story in the Jan. 19 Wall Street Journal, “The Trouble With Tinkering With Time,” talks about how different companies have tried to give their employees more time for innovation. Google is famous for its “20% initiative” where employees are encouraged to work on projects that are not related to their job description.
The writer, Alec Foege, says that companies can be terrified to let people “tinker” with new ideas on company time.
“They’ve got enough to do already thank you very much,” he writes. “Innovation at its heart, is a torturous anarchical act. True tinkerers are dilettantes, free-form creative types motivated more by their own curiosity than by the bottom line. In short, they aren’t the kinds of employees most big companies like adding to the payroll in the first place.”
He writes that just one drawback of a firm officially structuring innovation time is that “being ordered to tinker robs the activity of personal passion.” He suggests that one radical approach would be to allow people to directly profit from their successful ideas. He warns that companies who embark on these initiatives have to make room for “genuine creative chaos without clear goals,” and that they need to know that repeated failure is part of the deal with such a strategy.
I was once asked to come up with a presentation that my company’s executives could use to help employees understand the firm’s latest goals. I came up with quite the unorthodox presentation that proved more than a little memorable. If you come to my office in the basement you can see a sign that reads, “Rewarding Top Employees With Spam.” That’s a left-over prop from that presentation.