Ted Rubin: How Bad Structure Kills Creativity, Productivity and Morale

June 15, 2015 Marcus Varner

As part of our "Structure Grows Creativity" project, we asked marketing thought leaders to give us their take on the ongoing "Structure vs. Creativity" debate. This is what Ted Rubin, speaker, strategist, and CMO at Brand Innovators, had to say...


Ted Rubin

For years there has been an ongoing debate about how successful companies are run. How do you balance the need more innovation and creativity in the workplace with structure and control? Can you have both, or do you have to sacrifice one for the other?

According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report, a whopping 52% of employees today are disengaged (less emotionally connected to their work and less compelled to put forth extra effort). Not only that, 18% are ACTIVELY disengaged, meaning they resist what their company or boss is trying to get done. This leaves only 30% of employees who love what they do and who are deeply committed to the success of the organization.

These figures have to change in order for business to succeed today, and I think we can do that with a balance of good structure and creative freedom. There are three essential ways to get this done:

  1. Give your employees the tools they need to get their jobs done efficiently and with less friction.

  2. Empower your employees to think creatively and actively contribute to the organization's success.

  3. Acknowledge their efforts with support, guidance and praise.

The first is a structure issue. Anyone who is held accountable for reaching goals, yet is hamstrung by inefficient procedures and communication bottlenecks is going to be frustrated and unhappy at work. Fix your business procedures and make it easy to get work done.

The second and third items are closely tied to the first; an employee who is frustrated by a broken system, and/or who feels unappreciated and constrained is going to shut down and give minimal effort. Who wants to spend the majority of their waking hours in frustration and anxiety?

You can and should fix your structure, but also acknowledge your employees' efforts, actually give them time, and encourage them, to think. Provide a collaborative environment. Encourage them to submit ideas and let them color outside the lines on occasion! By making it easy to do their jobs in a relaxed, creative atmosphere, you'll soon have an army of advocates who love their work (and your company).

Start looking at the connection/interaction not as win/win... but learn/learn. Win/win is good, but implies an end. Once you win, then what? Learn/learn creates a paradigm of ongoing value.


What did the other 10 thought leaders have to say about structure and creativity? Read all their responses here.

Read more...

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Over the last 9 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront. His focus is always on breaking through the clutter while engaging audiences with brands' most foundational messaging. He currently oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content at Workfront.

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