It’s something that can actually be damaging to an organisation.
Anyone who’s heard or read Margaret Heffernan discuss wilful blindness will have come across the powerful, yet rare, examples of people who have been brave enough to stand up and be counted, when the majority kept silent, with their heads in the sand.
"Are there issues at work that you’re too afraid to raise?" is one of the many questions in surveys that Heffernan cites where wilful blindness has been investigated in the corporate world. Based on Europe and US firms, 85% percent of organisations are staffed by people who won’t speak up about an issue at work, either through fear or because they feel there’s no point.
I’ve certainly seen teams who appear to work in environments that cause them to feel the need to protect themselves and thus remain silent on certain issues. However, I’ve also enjoyed working with teams where everyone is free to speak their mind'. However, left to their own devises, simply enjoying the freedom to speak out isn’t always the perfect scenario when it comes to delivering great ideas.
The sweet spot for innovation is the combination of three key aspects:
1 - A clear challenge (too often people aren’t sure why they’ve been gathered together!)
2 – People who enjoy the freedom to think and share, to challenge each other and to be brave.
3 – A neutral 3rd party who can help ‘produce’ the team in the same way a music producer is employed to get the best out of artists. Inspiring them, pushing them and using creative techniques to draw out ideas before helping refine them into something powerful.
Too many organisations are restricting peoples creativity but even those where these limits don’t exist, benefit from having someone that can facilitate the conversation.