"Innovative" companies are not nice

IT outfits that market themselves as innovative and fun are really nightmare places to work, according to a top shrink.

Writing in Psychology Today, which we get for the spot the neurosis competition, Bob Sutton, an organisational psychologist, Stanford professor said that the terms creativity, innovation, and fun are often used in the same breath.

However working in a really innovative place is annoying and frustrating, or worse.

Many people say they want a creative workplace, but few would be happy if they actually worked in one.

He pointed out that Intel twigged to this problem a few years ago when it removed the word “Fun” from the list of core values that employees wear on their badges.

A large chunk of workers would say that Intel is not a fun place to work, so the outfit was just getting real.

But Sutton said that Intel is well-known for encouraging conflict and internal competition. It even holds classes on how to use “constructive confrontation.”

However, this method does create new ideas, which is why Intel is not the nicest place to work in.

“To build a company where innovation is a way of life, things need to be done that are unpleasant, or even downright frightening,” Sutton said.

He said that an outfit based on imagination has problems. Bad ideas get protected as well as the good ones.

“Most fantasies lead us astray, and most of the consequences of imagination for individuals and individual organisations are disastrous,” he said.

A system that induces imagination among individuals and individual organizations is essentially unjust. “By glorifying imagination, we entice the innocent into unwitting self-destruction (or if you prefer, altruism).”

He said that he didn’t want to give the impression that innovative companies are horrible places or you are destined to lose all your money if you work in one.

“Many people love the mess and confusion. It is more satisfying to come with up new ideas than to repeat the same actions.” Even though many new ideas fail, these setbacks often occur where failure is tolerated, even rewarded. However more people should be aware of the dangers of “innovation” before they sign up for a company which is innovative. Fortunately a lot of companies that say they are innovative and creative aren’t.