There are four major factors that affect workplace creativity. Two of them involve hierarchical relationships (between an employee and a supervisor), and two involve peer relationships (mainly within a team).
Each pair is made of one positive factor and one negative factor. All four revolve around, and interact with trust in the organization and within the team. In order to positively encourage creativity, you must maximize the presence of the positive factors, and minimize (if not completely eliminate) the negative factors.
Applying the Broaden and Build Theory developed in 1998 by Barbara Fredrickson would further suggest that the impact of the negative is three times more powerful than the impact of the positive ones. As a result, you should focus more on what not to do, than what you should do.
Therefore, here are four statements you should avoid in your organization like the plague.
1. Next time ask first
Autonomy is the positive hierarchical factor. You should be encouraging employees to try things. When an employee comes to you after trying something without asking your permission and failing, you should avoid the statement "next time ask me first."
Instead, encourage them to try more things, to learn from their experiences, and consult with additional people to understand what happened, and how to be successful.
2. This is how we do things around here
(Or: this is not how we do things around here)
Bureaucracy is the negative hierarchical factor. A statement such as "this is (or is not) how we do things around here" emphasized the bureaucracy, processes and formalization in the company, without explaining the reasoning behind them.
Instead, you should encourage your employees to challenge the organizational orthodoxies. You should reward improvement proposals and free thinking, rather than chain employees to old, and sometimes irrelevant processes that are often used to gain power rather than for the benefit of the company.
3. There is no such thing as a stupid idea (or question)
To me, this statement almost completely epitomizes the essence of Political Correctness. First of all, this statement is incorrect. I can tell you that many of my ideas are stupid, and many of my questions are stupid as well. When you make this definitive statement (no idea or question are stupid), you prevent yourself from the ability to later challenge or criticize them. After all, you promised that they are not stupid.
Instead, you should encourage teem members to conduct constructive conflict, and keep politics out of the workplace. Allow them (and yourself) to be vulnerable with your team members to ask stupid questions and proposed stupid ideas. You never know when they will trigger something amazing. Allow them (and yourself) to be confident enough to provide direct criticism to ideas, and also be confident enough to accept it.
4. Let's agree to disagree
Like the previous one, this statement discourages debate. Often teams tend to simply vote on things as a way to choose a path forward. "Agreeing to disagree" is a way to shut down a disagreement, and prevent constructive conflict. I'm not suggesting you hold endless arguments without ever reaching a conclusion. You need to know when it's time to make decision and move forward, even if not everyone on the team agree. However, you should strive to get all sides to an argument voice their positions, and argue them.
Don't assume that you know the answers before the debate.
This article is based on the model described in the book Culture starts with YOU, not your boss!