Creativity & Dishonesty

Paul Sloane in his latest post ‘ Start your meeting with a lie‘ refers to a paper by Scott Wiltermuth of Marshal Business School that proposes that dishonesty leads to creativity. He substantiates it by saying that both dishonesty and creativity require the ‘established rules to be broken’. Fair enough. The dilemma is, of course, how can you legally & ethically allow dishonesty to make your workforce more creative.

This reminded me of an old theory I had read when technology was not this pervasive and it was just entering our lives – not everyone had a mobile phone and even those who had would use it judiciously. Theory said that criminals and fraudsters are the first and the best users of technology. The way they apply technology innovatively is beyond the comprehension of the inventors of the technology as well. In fact, if the creators knew these possibilities they would probably work towards stopping them. The number of frauds committed using pre-paid SIM card, of course, led to the whole identity tagging to the SIM cards when they are issued, but then criminals are smart enough to circumvent that problem as stealing mobile phones is not a big deal. Anyway, for this discussion, this just supports what Paul Sloane is proposing that yes indeed the law breakers ( to whatever extent they break the law) are the most creative users of tools available to all of us. What makes them creative is of obviously limitless possibilities that they have the laws and regulations do not restrict them.

Can these limitless possibilities be created in a corporate setup without compromising the moral/ethical/strategic standing of the organization? Can you let some of your employees break the rules and expect others to follow them to the T? Can you contain the chaos that ‘not following the rules’ would lead to? Do you believe in ‘method in madness’ and expect that somehow things will take care of themselves?

This led me to question why do we have so many and so rigid rules in organizations? Now that I work independently, I find it ridiculous to sign at N no of places before I  am allowed inside and then wearing a batch with number prominently displayed? All this when I can enter any junk as my data in the register and when the security guard is too busy listening to music on his mobile phone. Why are employees who will never face a customer made to wear uncomfortable formal wear? I even know companies that have penalties for not following the silliest of the rules. Is this all not leading to make everyone say’ Let me just follow and do what they tell me to do’? Can organization start by easing up rules that are downright ridiculous that serve no other purpose except bring boring uniformity in the system? Can anything kill creativity like boredom does? Can you start by eliminating processes and rules that take up employee time and effort and yield no business results? Do you realize how they might be alienating the employees?

Anuradha Goyal

2 Comments

  1. I resonate your thoughts completely.There is no basis for such treatments of the employees working in the bigger organisations in India. And if anything, the difficulty of getting tasks done kill the motivation and vigor, to say the least.

    Also, Anuradha, If finished reading “The Mouse Charmers” yesterday. in a day. And I must say that your style of writing is lucid and succinct. Also, it is appreciable that you have been following/chasing/propagating innovation for as many years.

    All the Best!

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