Blown Away – where numbers rule, creativity suffers?

Microsoft Corporation - 1978
Microsoft Corporation - 1978 (Photo credit: Brajeshwar)

OMG.  Microsoft’s internal corporate practices are creativity stifflers. Did you read the Vanity Fair article Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant?   VF’s editor

Kurt Eichenwald interviewed staff and found…

“…a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Talk about inner work life at that company.  Have you thought about it much at your place?  I mean, what do people think, feel and perceive in your organization?  What’s nourishes their drive for creativity (assuming  you want new ideas, fresh decisions and a new future)?

I’m reading The Progress Principle by Harvard’s Teresa Amabile and developmental psychologist Steven Kramer who, on pages 49 and 50, highlight four dimensions in environments where high performance is a must: creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality. The Microsoft environment sure didn’t seem to support high performance from a people perspective, they used numbers as measures and guides without considering the impact on the people. This resulted in their losing talent to other organizations and in losing out to Apple over time.

Wow. Do you think that’s happening in other companies too?  Do numbers always rule?  If yes, then what about big data, hm?  I’m so happy my work helps people in companies create, produce, commit to and collegially interact to enable new futures.

Marci Segal

FYI, Teresa Amabile is one of my favourite creativity researchers.