How censorship & political correctness is stunting corporate creativity & innovation.
Written by: Adam Lloyd
Ok, before we go down the road of “how dare you-s” and self-righteousness, let me be clear, I am not an insensitive person. I’m sorry this is even a topic, meaning our obvious observance and categorization of people that are different than us. On a personal level within my network, across all cultural and ethnic classifications, there is a sense of comfort and loyalty to speak somewhat freely. I find some of these personal conversations I have are far more intriguing, honest and insightful than what I have witnessed in organized professional roundtables. Guards are down and the stakes are minimal to voice opinions.
With that being said, let’s call out the elephant in the room… Our censorship in corporate settings. The richest corporate cultures have the most diverse populations with a variety of life experiences and thinking. There are values that extend the organizations arms into ideas and geographies, bringing opportunity otherwise lacking. We strive to create and join these types of environments. But there remains such a hyper-awareness and tip toeing with our words in fear that someone may possibly be offended. Our social norms of acceptable speech have escalated to a paranoia state. We have become a society which is overly protective of everything and it’s exactly what is weakening our ability to create thought and the long-term effects could truly set us back. I won’t go into how we’ve gotten here, as I believe that is a whole separate issue, but find it far more interesting to understand how companies can benefit from a little internal social rebellion.
The best executives check their egos at the door and avoid emotional decision making. It’s not to say they lead without empathy, rather they make rational choices backed by the needed information. We must strive to better this by organizing ways to think, speak and collaborate freely for the sake of the greater good. It will lead to the next off-the-map idea or catalyst plan that only surfaces in an open forum. If you were marketing goods or services to a new country, would you hold back on discussing the cultural tendencies and buying habits of the people? Of course not. But as this type of conversation progressed, isn’t it possible there could be language perceived as stereotyping and offensive to some? It’s a fine line. But within internal walls, it’s one that needs to be walked. Organizations that understand what it takes to truly brainstorm, actually build genuine loyalty amongst the individuals in these meetings.
As we do in the company of trusted companions, companies should encourage internal meetings that promote dialogue which push society’s limits and our comfort zones.
Start small. Tap a variety of people that are initially open to having a free-speech creative session, where all ideas are on the table. There is no intent to take aim at anyone or to neglect feelings, this is not a roast. It is also not the type of gathering to hold back on any views, intelligence or ideas that would otherwise be subject in a public setting. It’s simple, if you don’t speak up, your idea doesn’t make the table, period. You would be surprised how the comfort level increases as people “spill.” It can be relief from all of the stifling.
So as society continues to tighten its restraints, let’s see what will happen if we can loosen them, one conversation at a time.