Are you squelching your staff’s creativity?

Business leaders complain that their staff members don’t come up with new ideas or creative solutions. Part of the problem can be there is no incentive to do so. But another reason is staff members are shot down when they do try something new.

This was the case recently during a volunteer experience.

Several times a year I work as a cashier for our library book sale. I like to support our library and community and it takes only 2 hours every 4 months. I also like interacting with our neighbors, as well as snagging some books for myself.

Our group’s leaders came up with the idea to make purses out of hard-cover book fronts and backs. They glue these to fabric and add handles. They are quite handsome.

But few were selling. Partly because the display was out of the way and there was no price tag so customers didn’t know they were for sale. 

My team of three cashiers decided to try to increase the sales. We took one especially attractive purse and put it in front of our cash box with a piece of paper on the purse reading “$25.”

It was not a perfect solution as the purse kept sliding down from it’s perch leaning on our cash box every time we opened it. Then the price tag would slide off.

We experimented with putting the display purse elsewhere on our table, but it kept getting in the way. There wasn’t a place we could tape the price tag without it harming the purse.

Our supervisor came up to our table and demanded, “Why isn’t this purse on the display?” We explained we were trying to increase sales by displaying it on the table since most people didn’t notice the rack.

“It just looks sloppy,” she said as she snatched it from our table and put it back on the out-of-the way rack.

Needless to say, we weren’t enthusiastic about trying new ways to sell more purses.

How could she have handled it better? What if she said, “That’s great you’re wanting to increase more purse sales. Let’s all brainstorm some ways that we can do that.”

But by essentially making us wrong for wanting to be creative, she snatched our enthusiasm when she snatched the purse from our table.