If you light, a flame, it will burn at a steady rate. If you cover it tightly, trying to keep the flame alive, it will die. Instead of smothering a flame, you should give it plenty of air and fuel and let it burn; it will grow much bigger.
Creativity is the same way. When an employee is micro-managed, the creativity of the employee is extinguished. Instead, it’s the creative thinking of the micro-manager that will come through. And if that’s the case, why even have the employee?
Micro-managing isn’t the only way a manager can take away the freedom to be creative. A failure to define goals clearly, or a constant-changing of goals, will deny employees a concrete goal to shoot for. Even if every other part of the process is left completely up to the individual, they will have no way of knowing where they need to end up.
Even if employees are included in the planning process, unless the managers set clear, concrete goals, you can forget about any kind of creative input.
Instead, managers should set these clear goals and give their team autonomy around the process of achieving those goals. It’s through autonomy in THIS stage of the process that employees can exercise creative thinking and really begin to contribute to the project.
As the British author G.K. Chesterton said, “Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.”
Creativity can only happen within well-established boundaries. But within those boundaries, employees must have free reign. It’s the job of a manager to establish those boundaries for their team, but leave every other aspect of the project up to creative interpretation.