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Mandate employee collaboration….or forget about innovation.

Posted by

Steve Graham

14 June, 2020

How many executives have an innovation target as a key performance indicator (KPI)? For that matter how many individuals across an organisation are measured or have KPIs for innovation. Louis V Gerstner, former IBM CEO said, “People don’t do what you expect, but what you inspect.”

My hypothesis: The foundational starting point for organisational innovation must be through mandated participation, ideally utilising a simple point-based ideas platform.

The first step towards organisation wide innovation is participation. Effectively an organisation must mandate and measure idea generation participation. An idea management platform is a simple online collaboration tool. How it works is simply through acknowledgment of participation through the accumulation of points, i.e. employees earn points for submitting new ideas, voting on ideas, and providing reviews and assessments of ideas.
magine if every employee accepted the responsibility with a care of duty to help formulate the future direction of the organisation. Give employees the voice, give them responsibility for better determining the future. Their voice matters!

On the 13th floor, I sat comfortably in one of the plush long-back leather chairs, discussing foresight and innovation with a team of executives, when one of them abruptly interjects, “Where are we going to find all of the new ideas for our future?” I looked at him with a wry smile and said, “The 12 floors below are filled with your intangible assets…your people are a good place to start.”

Front-line employees are the future leaders of tomorrow’s organisation. Employees have a myriad of skills, diverse experience, mixed cultural norms, and a plethora of insights. Their ideas become invaluable, but only if captured and shared.

I wish I had received $1000 dollars every time an executive had said, "Steve the number of ideas is not the problem, we have thousands of ideas!". My assessment of that statement is typically rhetorical:

  • Are these thousands of ideas random versus structured responses to questions and challenges, contextualised for meaningful idea generation?
  • Secondly, where are these ideas stored? Your head? Are these ideas shared in a transparent and easy to collaborative way?

We need to start thinking about innovation and idea generation in a new way. For organisation wide mandated innovation and idea generation to be successful, leadership must execute on the responsibility to provide innovation think pieces and goals, otherwise there is nothing for staff to respond to and participate with. However, this leadership work is not in vain as there becomes a natural two-way pull. The workers (e.g. front-line employees) can participate and share new ideas and insights generated by their customer experiences or familiarity with internal processes.

Steve Graham

Founder/Director HunchBuzz
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