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Creativity Comments by Winston J. Brill, Ph.D.

04/03 Creativity Comment

Creativity in "Dead Wood"

Too many managers claim that what's limiting their group’s creativity is the “dead wood” they are stuck with.  Sometimes dead wood is a large proportion of the group.  Typically, these are older workers who competently perform assigned tasks, but whose minds are more on what to do in their upcoming retirement than on how to help the organization.  Also, they are among the more cynical employees—and have reason to be cynical.

In most cases, this dead wood is ignored in any effort to stimulate creativity and innovation.  That’s too bad.  Older workers have valuable experience and valuable insights.  Possibly, they have had some really great ideas that were knocked down in the past.  Or maybe they were afraid to even voice these ideas. 

So, should we give up on extracting creativity from dead wood?  Not if you really value the power of creativity to drive innovation and success!  Everyone ought to be a potential contributor of great ideas. 

What will it take to stimulate the creative juices of the dead wood?  Simple, acknowledge their long and valuable experience, challenge them to make (and pursue) creative contributions, and acknowledge these contributions.  Challenge them to finish their careers as a spark instead of a dying ember.  Who wouldn’t like to feel good about having an impact?  Who wouldn’t feel good about coming up with a better idea than those proposed by the younger crowd?  What a great retirement treat! 

It’s so important to stimulate enthusiasm for work goals in each employee.  I’ve witnessed groups in which a new, or newly inspired, manager was able to instill the creative spark in staff long considered dead wood.    

©2006 Winston J. Brill & Associates. All rights reserved.