Your creative team need to be criticised, but not stifled – it’s a fine balancing act.
Some people believe that criticism and creativity make unhappy bedfellows in the workplace, but Theresa Johnston, writing for Stanford Business Journal, disagrees.
Yin and Yang
Johnston references Jonathan Bendor from Stanford, who says that “creativity and criticism are like the Chinese principles of yin and yang”; the two forces have to work together in order to achieve balance.
An under-scrutinised research and development (R&D) unit will produce plenty of ideas, but there’s a high risk that managers will choose bad ones. An over-scrutinised R&D unit will stifle innovation, however.
The brilliant engineers at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Company invented “the first true personal computer”, but because they weren’t pushed, via criticism, to consider market value, few of their ideas earned Xerox much money.
Having established that criticism is necessary, the challenge is to deliver it in a depersonalised and discerning way that can “shift the process away from egos and personalities, and more toward the nature of the problem itself”.
The solution is to use a formal rubric or scoring system. Ideas can be graded on various dimensions, enabling a manager to point to where an idea did or didn’t score well, rather than simply dismissing an idea as no good.
Innovation and encouraging a positive creative environment is good, but so is constructive criticism. For a business to be innovative and profitable, you need both.