When you have a successful innovation be sure to broadcast the fact. Track the source of the original idea that led to the innovation. It may have come from a brainstorm, a suggestion scheme item, an idea event or some other source and the originator may have been an individual or a team. In any event, if the contributor is agreeable, make a big fuss.
Draw up a story about the innovation and place it in internal and external media. Put it on your intranet and if appropriate on your main website. Place it in the trade press – they are usually hungry for stories and a good press release should ensure coverage. If at all possible feature the originators of the idea in the story with a photo of the person or people who came up with it.
Many managers prefer to keep their innovations secret for fear of giving away competitive advantage if the innovation works and for fear of humiliation if it flops. But generally the upsides outweigh the downsides. It sends a positive signal to the outside world about the company. Clients and prospective employees see it as well as competitors. But the biggest payback is internally. People feel good about seeing their name in print. Recognition is a powerful motivator and incentive. More ideas will flow and people will believe in the innovation process.
The approach that was used in the past was to wait until as much as a year after an innovation was implemented, calculate the savings (on a very conservative basis) and then give the originator a fixed percentage (e.g. 10%) of the savings. This led to occasional large payouts in manufacturing plants where someone spotted a way to significantly cut cost. But for most process improvements the cost savings were hard to measure and the wait for the reward was so long that people lost interest. Large payouts can also be divisive – especially when several people contributed to an idea but one person walks off with the bonus.
The more modern approach is to give many small incentives quickly. As soon as an idea is approved and enters the pipeline its originator gets a small reward. The idea may or may not emerge at the end of the funnel as a fully formed innovation but the contributor is rewarded anyway. Instant gratification is the order of the day – all good ideas that gain initial acceptance are recognized.
Approaches for rewarding and recognizing innovative ideas and successful innovations include:
- Gift vouchers
- Innovative gifts – the latest mobile technical gadget.
- Dinner for two.
- An ‘Innovation Oscars’ – A gala awards ceremony where nominated finalists are feted and a winner is declared.
- Opportunities to attend foreign conferences
- Featuring the winners in videos which are shown at innovation events.
Ideas are the lifeblood of innovation. Respond quickly to suggestions. Financially reward contributors. Implement the best ideas. Celebrate successful results.
Taken from The Innovative Leader by Paul Sloane published by Kogan Page
image credit: Donald Lee Pardue
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Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane