Intrapreneurs: this is why your manager isn’t listening to your creative input

If you are a creative, intrapreneurial employee, you’ve probably experienced some trouble when trying to convince your management of your great, innovative and creative ideas.

Research by PhD candidate Roy Sijbom of the University of Groningen shows that the root cause for this unwillingness to listen to your ideas might be the personality of your manager.

Sijbom distinguishes between two types of managers: those that set themselves performance goals, and those that set mastery goals.

  • Performance type managers are managers who focus on outperforming others, and on demonstrating their competence.
  • Mastery oriented managers are managers who focus on learning new things and on improving and developing their competence.

The personality of the manager is so important, he says, because managers have more lattitude to focus on achieving their own goals, instead of scrambling to execute on the goals of others.

Managers are therefore more driven by their internal goals than by external goals.

Field study: how do bosses react to creative input?

Sijbom did some research to see how the two types react to creative suggestions from reports (“underlings” if you wish). He says he expected managers who are performance driven to be less likely to hear out creative suggestions by their reports. Surprise: that was indeed the outcome of the field study.

Of course, he says, suggestions by superiors will always be taken into account by performance driven managers. In other words: performance driven managers are more attuned the question: “am I more important than you or not?” and will act accordingly.

If they feel you’re less important, your input is valued low. If you’re higher in the food chain, your input becomes more important. At Google this principle is famously called the “highest paid person’s opinion” (HiPPO).

Mastery driven managers were not only more open to recognise creative input from their reports, but they were also more likely to put the input to use for the benefit of the organisation.

Sijbom says the takeaway for HR professionals is that they should try to create an environment that is “mastery” oriented in order to instill a creative and innovative environment in your organisation. In other words, to reward managers who actively try to learn on the job.

For the intrapreneurial employee, the message is clear: choose your manager wisely.

Read more / Photo: Dan De Chiaro, Flickr

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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