New ideas, the basis of innovation, depend upon tapping the know-how (tacit knowledge) of employees and making this knowledge available to others within the organisation. Once the knowledge is shared and recorded within the organization (codified knowledge) it becomes a component of the corporate memory of the organization. What the organisation then does with the new ideas presented by employees will have the potential to add value to the organization. Although many organisations capture and record ideas they fail to develop these ideas further or fall short of converting these ideas into new products or services, new processes or new organisational systems.
The global company 3M, known for its unique innovative practices, encourages employees to spend 15% of their time to work on their own ‘pet’ projects. These pet projects allow employees to investigate and test their ideas, and subsequently develop these ideas into concepts or applications. Known as the ’15 percent rule’, 3M use this approach to stimulate unplanned experimentation that may turn into successful, but unexpected innovations. Had it not been for the existence of the 15 percent rule Art Fry and Spence Silver may not have had the opportunity or the conducive environment to develop the 3M Post-it® notes.
In the spirit of 3M, organisations that generate and capture a large number of ideas through their employees could hold internal ‘idea auctions’. Idea auctions are essentially forums where employees present and showcase their own ideas to an audience of interested parties who might be keen on taking on the idea and working with it, either individually or in groups. The process allows employees who come up with the ideas to ‘sell’ their ideas to anyone within the company, especially where their immediate supervisor or team members refuse to support the employee. Furthermore, some people are good at generating ideas while others prefer the implementation phase. Using a team approach to reviewing ideas will also quickly provide important feedback from an ‘internal customer’ perspective on whether the idea should be progressed or killed off.
What are you doing in your organisation to capture new ideas from your employees?
Dr John Kapeleris