Bureaucracy - the Easiest Way to Kill Innovation


My 7th book, Driving Eureka!, will be published next month.  Sneak preview...

Innovation equals change. Change means uncertainty. Uncertainty means fear. The best way to prevent innovation or change is through the implementation of bureaucratic systems. Bureaucratic systems, such as excessive rules, regulations, or reporting, create barriers to change, and thesebarriers protect the status quo.

Driving Eureka! Busting Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy multiplies when organizations grow to a size where loyalty to department is greater than loyalty to the organization. Tom Peters once said something along the lines of, “After you get to a dozen people, you have a hopeless bureaucracy.”

Recall, systems are defined as two or more independent parts working toward a common aim. In business and nonprofit organizations, this means divisions, departments, and/or teams focused on achieving the overall aim of the organization.

If a GOOD SYSTEM is “two or more independent parts working toward a common aim” then a BAD SYSTEM is “two or more independent parts working toward separate aims.” Bad systems are created for one of three reasons:

  1. PROTECTIONISM: One department seeks to optimize their results/metrics, without thinking through what the impact is on interconnected departments. With innovation, this is often sparked by departments seeking to push work onto other departments. They do this because cost-cutting has reduced their staff such that they can’t handle their existing workload.

  2. OVERREACTION: A random, special cause mistake has happened and we over do our rules and regulations. With innovation this is often the result of a new product, service, or system failure. When a failure occurs, instead of focusing on fixing the root cause, excessive rules, regulations, and inspection is implemented.

  3. SUBVERSION: Someone wants to prevent change from happening. They use a passive aggressive approach of installing “rules, regulations and inspection” to slow down or kill the change. Ego, jealousy, and/or fear are often the root motivation. With innovation this can be caused by “not invented here” syndrome or the feeling that “I’ve got 3 years to retirement and don’t want to mess up.”

Sadly, once created, bureaucratic systems self-multiply. One act of protectionism, overreaction, or subversion creates equal and opposite acts of protectionism, overreaction, or subversion from other departments. Fortunately there is an antidote.  We call it Bureaucracy Busting—A Four-Step Antidote For Ending Your Suffering.  It’s detailed on pages 74 to 84 of my new book.

Click HERE to pre-order Driving Eureka!

Doug Hall

The Driving Eureka! Newsletter is a compilation of case studies, new techniques, thought provoking insights, an occasional rant, and excerpts from my books 



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