Just something we at Wisehoney are building; timing couldn’t have been more apt.
David Burkus’s latest article in HBR Blogs highlight the key challenge in Innovation. How to get Ideas out of peoples brains to something which is meaningful in the real world. Nope, its not the latest fad in management but a plain issue of how to recognize the right ideas and the people behind those ideas.
When most organizations try to increase their innovation efforts, they always seem to start from the same assumption: “we need more ideas.” They’ll start talking about the need to “think outside the box” or “blue sky” thinking in order to find a few ideas that can turn into viable new products or systems. However, in most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there.
It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.
One possible solution to this “idea killing” problem is to change the structure ideas have to move through. Instead of using the traditional hierarchy to find and approve ideas, the approval process could be spread across the whole organization. That’s the approach Rhode Island-based Rite-Solutions has taken for almost a decade. Rite-Solutions has set up an “idea market” on their internal website where anyone can post an idea and list it as a “stock” on the market, called “Mutual Fun.” Every employee is also given $10,000 in virtual currency to “invest” in ideas. In addition to the investment, employees also volunteer to work on project ideas they support. If an idea gathers enough support, the project is approved and everyone who supported it is given a share of the profits from the project. In just a few years, the program has already produced huge gains for the company, from small incremental changes to products in whole new industries. In its first year alone, the Mutual Fun accounted for 50 percent of the company’s new business growth. More important than the immediate revenue, the idea market has created a culture where new ideas are recognized and developed throughout the entire company, a democratization of recognition.
In addition, it’s a system based on the assumption that everyone in the company already has great ideas and the market just makes them better at finding those ideas. It’s not an idea-solution; it’s a recognition-solution.