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Do You Really Encourage Innovation & Creativity?

A study reveals that while many bosses claim to promote innovation, their employees often think they're delusional creativity killers.

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There are plenty of people out there who have pretty positive self-assessments: Ninety percent of drivers think they have above average skills behind the wheel, an even higher percentage of college professors think they're better than average teachers, and, as we all know, every single child in Lake Wobegon is above average.

And, when it comes to managers, a majority believe that they inspire and support creativity within their company, according to new research from talent management consultancy DDI.

When DDI surveyed more than 500 employees and 500 business leaders, they found a high percentage of bosses claimed they do everything in their power to encourage their team to come up with creative solutions. But the employees shook their heads in disbelief:

    •    64 percent of bosses said they strove to inspire creativity. Only 42 percent of employees agreed.
    •    71 percent of bosses told pollsters they challenge current perspectives. Again, only 42 percent of employees felt the same.
    •    69 percent of bosses believe they create freedom for their team can innovate, but just 41 percent of team members concurred.

Asked about driving a culture innovation in general, 76 percent of leaders rated themselves as above average or excellent. Employees, however, said just 57 percent of their leaders were above average.

"Leaders were far more confident in their skills across the board—but employees really felt that there really wasn’t room to challenge the status quo,” Rich Wellins, senior vice president of DDI, said of the research.

These findings about the perception gap between employees and their leaders line up with other more general findings that show while many of us say we value creativity, genuinely innovative ideas and people often inspire fear and negative reactions.

Teachers, for instance, say they value creativity in their students but have been shown to actually prefer more docile and conventional pupils. Other research out of Cornell has shown that being perceived as creative actually diminishes a person's chances of being promoted to a leadership role.

If you say you're a creativity- loving boss, are you sure your employees would agree?

Last updated: Mar 23, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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