Tag: reward

Innovation – Recognition, What’s In It For Me?

Employees love success so start talking about it – all of the time. Above all, people ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ They are seeking some sort of recognition or reward. The answer does not have to be money, think of it in terms of value where value can be one or more of:

  • recognition from the business or organisation
  • recognition from management and peers
  • monetary rewards
  • the opportunity to help others (and feel good)
  • creating a feeling of belonging
  • the opportunity to use infrequently used skills
  • the opportunity to collaborate and learn
  • the opportunity to bring something completely new into the world

It is difficult to address all of the above but your Innovation initiative can be designed to meet more than one. The number and type of benefits you cover will depend on your organisation and possibly national cultural issues.

Innovation, particularly Open Innovation is a social activity so networking activities such as using Social Media can be used to provide benefits and also to spread news of your success. Others will then be more inclined to join in and contribute. The more minds you connect, the greater the value you can generate for your business whether you seek new products and services or just process improvement.

Apart from asking themselves the question ‘what’s in it for me?’ people will also wonder ‘how painful will it be?’ or ‘how much effort will it take?’. All interactions involve a degree of friction or tension so let us go with this engineering metaphor and consider how we might ‘oil the wheels’ of our Innovation project or programme to ensure things run as smoothly as possible.

All of your contributors will take value from the project in their own way so you will need to ensure that you generate and distribute value in as many ways as possible. It is also good practice to ensure that the personal values of individuals are aligned with the values of the business.

People can also be aligned with your aims (hence pulling in the same direction) if you create a clear and compelling story about your Innovation challenge that will resonate with all of your participants. Such a story can also be used to set out goals, definition of success and rules of engagement which will help you to manage expectations. Do the groundwork first and success will follow!

Audacious Ideas

audacious ideasWith most ideas, there is a correlation between how audacious or risky an idea is and its potential for economic reward. Disruptive or radical innovation produce  ideas which disrupt industry and dramatically change a business sector. These are audacious and highly risky but if they work out as hoped, audacious ideas can bring huge rewards.

Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis developed their own voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and then built a business around it – Skype. They offered free telephone calls over the World Wide Web as well as cheap calls via the Web to ordinary telephones. Their business model was audacious. A couple of unknown Swedish guys took on the world’s telephone service providers. Their idea was both innovative and seriously risky. Potential users might well have decided they did not trust  VoIP or Internet Service Providers who  might have tried to block Skype calls. In which case, the two Swedish guys would have lost a lot of money.

Skype has been a huge success story. There are more than 100 million Skype users around the world and the two founders sold their company to eBay for USD2.4 billion. Not bad for an audacious idea.

To visualise the importance of audaciousness in business innovation, imagine a simple graph with X and Y axis. The right end of the X axis is marked “Audacity”, the left end is marked “Boringness”. The top of the Y axis is labelled “Risk/Rewards”. The bottom is labelled “Stability”. Next, draw a narrow diagonal bar from the bottom left corner of the graph to the upper right corner. This bar represents the range where most business ideas fall. Audacious business ideas are risky yet innovative. Boring business ideas are safe and not very risky. But they do not bring high rewards. Most business ideas, of course, tend to fall near the axis.

There are several useful things we can learn from this exercise.

  1. In Europe and America we tend to favour highly innovative ideas, but it seems that a handful of boring business ideas resulting in incremental innovation can also bring benefits. You should not focus all your innovative efforts on big, disruptive innovation. A number of smaller, moderately innovative ideas should be mixed in.
  2. Many companies have an overly strict review process that requires every single dea pass a number of hurdles before it is implemented. All too often committees reduce the risk of the idea. They seek to protect the company against risk or most likely they seek to protect their own jobs by not sanctioning risk projects. By reducing risk, they are also making an idea more boring, less innovative and reducing the potential reward.
  3. Conversely, an idea can often be pushed to be more audacious, thus increasing its reward potential – but also its risk. Bear this in mind the next time you brainstorm ideas. When you get a few good ideas, don’t stop there. Push the best ideas further.
  4. If an idea is very boring and of low risk, its reward potential is also low. Thus you need to be certain that the cost of implementing the idea will not be greater than the rewards it brings in.

So, the next time you have a business idea, go on and be audacious. Push the idea to the limits and don’t be afraid to go with it.

Creativity – What can I do on Monday?

You’ve heard the talk, read the book, bought the T-shirt but what practical steps can you take on Monday morning to help creativity to flourish?

To start off, here are a few ideas. However with your new found idea generation skills, you should be able to think of lots more.

  • Create space (physical and time) for idea generation
  • By cutting down on non essential meetings
  • Avoiding micro managing staff
  • Allowing time for ‘play’ or to make mistakes (within reason)
  • Allowing interaction between individuals (at the coffee machine or water cooler).
  • Adopt simple techniques for modifying existing products or services
  • Think about having after action reviews to ensure that you avoid re-inventing the wheel.
  • Look at reward systems to encourage know-how to be shared and for salaries and bonuses to promote team working.
  • Hold curiosity meetings where people are allowed to ask ‘What if?’

Small organisations without boards could consider having an informal board of trusted acquaintances who will give advice in return for a meal, say.

Start looking at methods of gathering ideas that will encourage new ideas not just complaints (avoid the baggage of the traditional suggestion box). Ensure that contributions are recognised and that the process is transparent.

So what? You may say, these are not very creative. Well they are if you have been doing something else. Creative or alternative thinking does not mean playing with brightly coloured balls all day long. It means selecting appropriate techniques and methods from as wide a variety as possible and matching them to the task in hand to get the best results possible. Another reason to expand your management toolbox is to engage the widest audience possible. That person who yawns at meetings where documents are discussed might participate where a storyboard is used. Someone whose help you seek may apparently talk in riddles but they may in fact be using metaphor, try using their language.

One other thing to remember, just because the words ‘problem solving’ are used it does not mean that you have to have a problem to be solved. You may need to reframe a situation i.e. get another perspective, either to be able to change it or make sure that you have left nothing out.

Let’s look at the categories that techniques fall into:

Exploring/defining – such techniques can be used to try and find solutions to problems but they can also be used to find out more about an individual or group of people or try to create a shared understanding of a situation with abstract boundaries such as a vision or mission statement.

Idea generation – these techniques do exactly what it says on the tin. Brainstorming type techniques can be used to generate a large number of possibilities whilst nominal group techniques or modelling can create a shared idea amongst a group of people.

Screening – instead of just sitting around trying to vote for a preferred solution or rely on gut feel, there are a number of techniques that can help you such as bullet proofing.

Planning and prioritising – not quite planning in the true sense of the word but some of the screening techniques can help you prioritise and something like a storyboard is actually a plan (but without the small print) which can be turned into a readable document or used as a storyboard for PR or communications purposes.

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