As part of the “new normal” everyone is redefining how things get done in order to reduce the number of people it takes to do the work. Normally I’d say that’s a good thing because I’ve always believe Robert Heinlein had it right:
“Progress doesn’t come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.”
If you didn’t grow up reading science fiction the quote might lose something in translation because Heinlein wasn’t advocating either sloth or hedonism. He just felt that there was so much to do in life that anything that could be simplified should be.
Now on to my point; I’m not seeing the increase in creativity or innovation I would be expecting as part of our changing economy and I’m not sure why. I’ve got a gut instinct that says we’ve cut too far and adopted too much of an attitude that if we have enough process than any trained monkey can do the work. The problem is that trained monkeys don’t innovate.
Part of my concern comes from a recent personal trip I took. Almost everyone I spoke with in my travels was angry, over worked and stressed almost to the point of breaking. Stress kills creativity. It also kills productivity over the long haul (though not unfortunately in the short run).
So here’s what interests me. How do we as managers and leaders identify when we’ve crossed the line? I’m sure most of you reading this will be saying – “I’m on the receiving end of this – it’s the folks in the c- suite who make decisions” and my answer would be that we don’t help them make decisions if we can’t show them facts or if we don’t have facts at least a cogent model that makes a case that we have to do something different.
I really don’t have a definitive answer to this problem especially since I think the surface, easy answers you’ll hear advocated on television aren’t right (and here I’m including pundits on both side of the political equation). I’d love to know what the rest of you are thinking and more specifically what you as a manager think YOU can do to help turn the corner on this issue.
If I were still managing I know I’d be doing everything I could to get the stress level down and I’d probably be doing that by talking to my people and seeing what work we could eliminate… And maybe, just maybe if we eliminated some work we’d find we made some progress…
Comments? Agree? Disagree?