Creative People Must Be Stopped: 6 Ways We Kill Innovation (Without Even Trying), by David A. Owens
As someone who cares deeply about creativity and innovation in a wide variety of aspects , I found this book to be an immensely worthwhile read. All too many of us have experienced the dark side of creativity and the backlash against it in our lives. I know I have on many occasions. For one, we may be envious of other creative people and wonder if creativity is something that comes naturally to some and not to others. We may feel the awkwardness of creativity in a group context where we are trying to belong or fit in. We may find that the organizations we are a part of, business and otherwise, are not exactly very welcoming to our fountain of distinctive ideas or to our unconventionality in approach. We may find that a larger degree of uniformity with a particular industry or denominational background hinders the way our innovations are viewed. We may find that our ideas and visions are at variance with the larger society we are a part of, which views with horror and disgust and derision what we view as transparently obviously better than what now passes for common practice. And finally, we may find that our desired innovations are simply not technologically feasible given the limitations of infrastructure and resources at present. Rather than seek to take these layers in isolation, Owens views them all as part of a grand overarching narrative on barriers to innovation, making this a practical book of considerable depth and interest.
The contents of this book rest at the heart of a debate on the barriers and resistance to change, which is often viewed in very narrow ways . Instead, this book begins with the context of innovation and points to six dimensions where efforts at change and innovation often fail, starting from the inside out, from the areas where we have the most control and influence to those where we have the least. After reminding readers that we are more creative than we think in looking at the individual barriers to creativity, the author moves to the weaknesses of many brainstorming issues by examining the constraints to innovation that take place in groups. Then the author points out that there are similar constraints on the level of organizations as well as industries, and within greater society as well as within the technological levels of our civilization. Each of the chapters is filled with witty and humorous stories of corporate history and of efforts that both transcended the barriers to innovation and creativity as well as those which largely failed on account of failing to address and transcend the constraints on each level. Each of these chapters on constraints also contains a detailed checklist which, if answered accurately and honestly, can help the reader know if this level hinders the creativity or innovations they wish to see adopted. The book then ends with a chapter on ways that people in charge of innovation efforts can helpfully encourage change and innovation in the groups they lead through adopting innovation strategies that start small, where errant groups are reined in, where both failure and success are rewarded, but inaction is punished, and where innovators are supported instead of being quashed. Perhaps most helpfully of all, the book includes a short bookshelf of related books to encourage the reader in future reading on the subject.
So, ultimately, what should a reader expect out of this book. Assuming the reader comes into it with a background and experience of frustration with regards to change initiatives, and here we mean changes for the good, specifically, and has an interest in business philosophy and its applicability to other areas of life, this is an exceedingly excellent book. Among its strongest elements is the fact that it encourages the reader to become better aware and more well-read of a wide grasp of literature on the subject of innovation in seeking to learn from biological design as well as learn about the culture of institutions and organizations and how they often inhibit growth, and the fact that the book is not only well-written but manages to combine two rare virtues in being both intensely practical to its intended audience of innovative people in less than ideal circumstances while also being of such a grand scope that it provides a framework in which to understand the sources of one’s frustrations to better know which layer needs to be addressed in one’s efforts to run the gauntlet of change management. This is no small achievement, and is worthy of great praise and respect, as well as wide adoption.
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