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An engineer friend of mine works for a large, highly innovative company. You know the type of company I’m talking about: the kind that introduces new products, offers unique services, and establishes effective processes with remarkable consistency. The kind of company whose employees get told over and over again, “You’re so lucky!”

But here’s the secret: luck has nothing to do with it. And here’s why:

Innovative companies, like my friend’s company, take creativity very seriously. Innovation isn’t an end result (for example, a successful product), it’s a plan of action, a series of concrete activities — including false starts — just enough of which lead to successful products.

For example, engineers at my friend’s company must set specific performance targets each quarter. Innovation points are an important element of these targets. Innovation points are earned based on specific actions, including coming up with ideas, testing the concepts, taking the approved concept forward to the patent stage, and developing a marketable product. Coming up with an idea and presenting it to an innovation review team is worth a $200 bonus.  If the idea goes forward beyond the initial concept, the employees earn $2,000. Not every idea is a winner, but the program stimulates enough profitable creativity to justify the investment.

This program got me thinking and searching. There are many, many public innovation awards, but I wonder, how common are internal innovation awards? How much innovation would we see if such programs were used more frequently?

Here are my questions for you:

  • What are you already doing to inspire and reward innovation in your company?
  • What might you begin doing, starting tomorrow, to inspire and reward innovation in your company?



Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

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