As we work with companies large and small, we see a management trait that is stultifying innovation, new ideas, and open discussion.  Leaders who are too vested in their own opinions and view other opinions as an attack on their expertise are becoming more common.  I have personally seen ego-driven C level executives not only override other’s ideas without considering them, but then force everyone in the board room to parrot their particular point of view.  Whatever the cause, it is detrimental to your company’s growth and agility, and leaves you unable to adapt to new competition or market shifts.

Being too invested in your own ideas and failing to consider how you could be wrong makes it nearly impossible to be open to something new, especially if it contradicts your current assumptions.  This will result in your managers bringing you only those projects and ideas they feel will align with your current “world view” and forego other ideas as being too risky to bring up.  Your competitors are more likely to break ground with an exciting new innovation if this is your company culture.

The HIPPO effect is another way that small to medium sized companies compromise their innovation.  HIPPO stands for “highest paid person’s opinion”, and many meetings simply end up defaulting to what the boss thinks, rather than pursue ideas from the trenches.

Finally, your organizational chart could be the problem with fostering innovation.  Chain of command works well with issuing orders and executing decisions, but it can bottleneck any new ideas or practices. Creative ideas that come from the middle or lower levels of a hierarchy have to work their way up through a series of managers, each with the power to veto but lacking the authority to implement the idea.  Changing a communications policy and allowing for ideas from the field to be vetted from the top, without having to hurdle mid-level managers, can do wonders for innovation and company morale.

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