Whether we are describing the workplace or the classroom setting, too often, our management approaches stifle independent thinking.

We create measures and scorecards and performance evaluations that promote a narrow set of behaviors. What gets measured gets done—sometimes by encouraging unethical behavior.

We over-manage and rob people of the need to think for themselves. We train our people to ask, “What should I do?” and “What do you want?” The bad manager appreciates these questions because they feed his/her desire to control.

We design compensation schemes that allow us to rationalize behaviors that many find repulsive.

Instructors in undergraduate and graduate programs falsely believe they are doing their job by developing detailed rubrics for projects and assignments that condition individuals to conform and not create.

What gets measured gets done—sometimes by encouraging unethical behavior. Click To Tweet

The goal of too many of us seems to be to drive conformity and compliance. The results speak for themselves:

  • Firms decline and die because they become myopic and insular while everything around them changes.
  • Individuals grow dependent upon clarity and instruction from on high.
  • Problems fester and metastasize.

Instead, try this:

Managers: quit telling people what to do and how to do it. Encourage individuals to solve their problems. Use, “I don’t know, what do you think you should do?” liberally in response to those asking what to do. And then let them do it—even if it is different than what you would do.

Educators (especially business professors!): take your syllabi with your detailed rubrics outside and toss them in the rubbish. Better yet, burn them and start over by designing assignments that promote exploration and creative problem solving.

Executives: invite objective outsiders to identify and evaluate the benefits and risks inherent in your scorecard measures and compensation schemes. Use the filters of:

  • What behaviors will this encourage/discourage?
  • Might this approach invite aberrant behaviors?
  • Does this approach encourage critical thinking and creative problem-solving?

And then measure those things.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Conditioning people to conform and comply is the approach of evil dictators and small-minded managers and instructors. It is time to change your management approaches. After all, we need more people thinking, doing and learning while solving problems.

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