One of the most interesting things I came across in creating and running innovation programs and brainstorming sessions at my clients was the disconnect on suggested rewards programs between senior management and inventors.
Typically, we started off with senior management, attempting to nail down goals and direction. Invariably, during these sessions, the topic of rewarding inventors would come up, and most of the time they were fairly generous in there rewards, assuming that a huge monetary reward would generate the best new ideas. These ranged from flat monetary rewards for generating ideas, all the way to percentages of revenues if the idea was implemented for the inventor or inventors. While these are great, it’s not the best way to get the best ideas.
In meeting with inventors however, their needs were very different. In fact, most inventors that I have worked with considered recognition for their ideas as equal to or in many cases more important than monetary awards. They preferred that their ideas were heard, lauded internally if they were good, and ideally actually built. In most cases, even if the idea was built out and resulted in increased revenues, the inventor was happy with seeing their invention brought to life over being rewarded for it. Of course, they’d love the monetary award (who wouldn’t) but it wasn’t the driving factor for them to come up with and share the idea internally.
The speaks to the need to develop an internal invention eco-system which fosters generating ideas, reviewing and rating ideas, providing useful and timely feedback to inventors, and generally taking care of the people who are generating the ideas. You need a safe place for them to put the idea, and the assurance and follow through (this is VERY important) that the idea will at least be heard and vetted. Even if you decide not to move forward with an idea, at the very least you will need to inform the inventor the reasons why in a timely manner. The worst possible thing to can do to shut down innovation at your company is to stop communicating with your inventors. Once they sense that their ideas are going into a “black hole”, they shut up as well.
It takes work to create and maintain a healthy inventor eco-system, but without it, innovation is dead. As I’ve said before:
Your innovation program is your child. It is your future. It is the future of your company. If it isn’t, then your company has no future..
The moral: Take care of your inventors, and innovation will continue to flow. And your company will fluorish and grow.