Nine Factors That Can Sabotage A Team’s Creativity During Collaborative Work


No matter if working with a team is part of your daily routine or if it’s something you only need to do for special assignments, it’s important to understand how to maintain creativity when working together. With a variety of minds and personalities working together, creative thought should flourish—but there are a few factors that can sabotage it if everyone isn’t careful.

In order to avoid these factors, however, first you must identify them. Below, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council discuss these sabotaging factors and what teams and their leaders can do to prevent them.

1. Too Much Or Too Little Structure

Creativity is all about finding the right balance between freedom and accountability. The most common way to sabotage innovation is to provide too much or too little structure. We will never micromanage our teams into doing something new. A team that’s told what to do and how to do it will, at best, follow your orders. At the same time, too little structure is just as deadly. Unbound creative discussions have a tendency to derail or become circular. The approach I’ve developed over the years is to hyper-focus on stating the problem I’m asking the team to solve and defining what success looks like, including an expected timeline. With those guardrails in place, the team is free to explore and think outside the box, while keeping their eyes on the prize. When I do this well, we all win. – Alex Furman, Invitae

2. Leaders Influencing Other People’s Thoughts

Always be the last to speak. As a leader, the best thing you can do for your company is to hire great people and empower them to deliver great results. When working together, give your team the room to come up with ideas and make decisions without influencing their thoughts. Too often, leaders will start conversations with, “Well, I think we should do XYZ. Let’s go around and hear what everyone else thinks.” As soon as this happens, the creativity has already been killed because there is immense pressure to just go along with what was just said. If you’re the last to speak and share your viewpoints, it allows other creative ideas (and often better ideas) to thrive. – Arian Radmand, IgnitePost

3. A Lack Of Teamwork

One thing that can quickly ruin a team’s creativity is a lack of teamwork. If not all members of the team feel that their role in the project is valued and welcomed, it can leave them feeling discouraged and unheard, ultimately dampening any creative ideas they could have contributed if they felt like valued members of the team. To ensure a collaborative project is approached with creativity, everyone’s input should be listened to and respected equally, even if it isn’t applied. – Ismael Wrixen, FE International

4. Failure To Include Everyone

A team’s creativity can be sabotaged if they fail to get every single person’s opinions and thoughts on a project. The entire point of collaboration is to bring together brilliant minds that create thought-provoking ideas. Failing to collect ideas from everyone can lead to setbacks and a loss of creativity. It’s important for everyone to have the chance to participate so their ideas can be heard and considered. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

5. A Culture That’s Critical Or Sarcastic

Fear of failure is the No. 1 killer of creativity, which is ultimately rooted in shame. It seems like an odd dichotomy, but if there is a culture set that is overly critical or sarcastic, one that puts down instead of building up, creativity and innovation cannot exist. The creative process is a vulnerable one, and when we, as leaders, take a scenario that would naturally cause people to be overly critical of themselves or their ideas and allow freedom from judgment, we engage the superpower that is creativity. We rob the project we are putting our hands in when we don’t. Not every idea is a good one, but every person who has an idea deserves to be respected for having the confidence to voice it and to not be condemned for doing so, even if it’s outside of the scope of what would work. – Nic DeAngelo, Saint Investment Group

6. Too Many Interruptions

Creativity can be sabotaged when interruptions are rampant. Instead of peppering someone with questions, interjecting with ideas or pointing out how an idea won’t work, allow whomever is speaking the courtesy of communicating their idea before asking questions or giving feedback. When interruptions occur before an idea is able to be fully shared, it demotivates teams from sharing ideas that are outside the box. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

7. The Word ‘No’

“No” stops the conversation, and it is unlikely the team member who heard it will contribute again. As the leader of a brainstorming session, evolve your thinking from “yes” or “no” to “that works” or “that needs work.” When you’re leading people on a large creative project, you’re in the role of a finishing chef who might add garnish, sauce or spice to ideas that are almost there. Leaders only shine brighter when they can say, “Look at the brilliant work my team did,” instead of, “Look at my brilliant idea.” Think long term and stay open minded, and avoid shutting down new ideas from people who may have just worked up the courage to pitch a thought for the first time. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts

8. Negativity

The one thing that can stop a team’s creativity in its tracks is negativity. I call it “throwing cold water on an idea.” It’s when someone or several people have an idea and others say it can’t be done. While some ideas may be out of the realm of possibility, constant negativity on a stream of ideas will stifle anyone’s creativity. Negativity tends to breed once it gets started, and soon no one is saying anything. The way to prevent this is to state upfront that no idea will be dismissed offhandedly, and that you, as a team, will write down all ideas to mull over the next day or so and see which ones work best. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

9. Backchannel Conversations

Keep all conversations on the same channel. Multiple channels may not obviously derail creativity, but they compound and get people going in too many directions. If specific tasks need to be discussed outside the main channel of communication, that is different, but too many conversations in different channels regarding the same project is a great way to lose focus and momentum and ultimately sabotage creativity. If you find yourself in a backchannel conversation, bring up the conversation in the group and encourage conversation about the backchannel. In this way, it can be useful and add value to the group conversation and project. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic



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