On my post about liking vs. loving your job, Gabe asked an interesting question in the comments:
What do you do if you work at a place where, every time you try to “raise your game???, i.e. creating coding standards, improving functionality of commonly used systems, etc, you are told that “We don’t have time for that.??? or “We should put that on the back burner until we have more staff.??? or anything else that ends up sounding like “No???.
What advice do you have for those who want to improve things and are consistently met with opposition?
To me, there are few things that are more demotivating than coming up with what I believe is a good idea, only to see it shot down by the usual, boiler-plate objections.
And it doesn’t have to be this way. London-based innovation agency ?WhatIf! have implemented a practice they call greenhousing. In the book Sticky Wisdom, they write:
Plants are at their most fragile when they are small and just starting to grow. That’s why gardeners use greenhouses. It’s the same with ideas. They are easiest to destroy when they first appear. Unfortunately, most business cultures tend to stifle ideas before they can take root.
Accordingly, all new ideas get a grace period where they are nurtured, not attacked. During this period, you can ask questions like:
- What would be the positive outcome of this idea?
- Why are you excited about it?
- How will this make us more efficient?
That is how we want our ideas to be met. Greenhouse them first. Then after a while, take a critical look and see if the idea holds water.
If you work in a place where this doesn’t happen, then it might be worth it to point people’s attention to this behavior and to what it does to people. You can point out that this leads to:
- Less motivation
- No change and innovation
- Cynicism and helplessness because “nothing ever changes”
Also, always focusing on the short-term solutions means huge long-term losses. Sometimes you gotta put in X hours of work now to save 2X hours next week.
Would that help? What else can you do to create change at work?