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How To Encourage Workers To Suggest Innovation? 281

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the participatory-employment dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The software company where I work has an Innovation and Knowledge program that encourages workers to provide ideas for new products and suggestions to improve the work place, productivity or welfare. The ideas and suggestions are evaluated by a board that decides whether they should be implemented or not. The group of workers with more ideas participates in a raffle to receive a prize. I would like to know what other programs people have seen like this and how they differ. What is the best way to encourage workers to suggest new products to be made / researched by the company?"
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How To Encourage Workers To Suggest Innovation?

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  • Alcohol (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:19PM (#26848529) Journal

    They'll also suggest a whole bunch of other, probably not so helpful stuff.

    • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:54PM (#26849065) Homepage Journal

      An idea for a software program is not unlike an idea for a book, a poem, or a song. I suggest that if a company *really* wants innovation, that they offer 1% royalties that are not negated by loss of employment. That way, a good software developer may, after 10 or 30 years of coding, actually be able to retire.

      • I believe you mis-spelled "equity".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Windows_NT (1353809)
        This post might apply more to city style environments.
        i live in a town of 1000 people Walker [leech-lake.com] and work in a place that has 30 or so employees. Now while working on projects, we also have what the client wants, but there is always instances where there are different ways to do it. We have the chance to suggest ideas doing meetings about the projects, and our company is always taking suggestions about work env. etc ..
        But the easiest thing to do, is just talk to your supervisor, "Hey, i have an idea about th
      • by gutnor (872759) on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:03PM (#26850047)

        Nice in theory. In practice that will just become like the US patent system: you will have people submitting tons of general ideas that will prevent other employee to submit "derivative" ideas and/or could interfere with the company already ongoing projects.

        Also idea as you said, idea for software program are like ideas for books, poem, ... Meaning they are very common and worthless, without huge effort.

        If you want innovation - you can pay for it in another way. Just give time and resource to your employee to pursue some of their ideas. When you see something concretely good taking shape, reward your employee by upgrading his pet project into a company project and give him some career opportunity on it.

        That will cost the company the same (or more), but without the side effect of the patent system.
        That seems to work alright at google. ( but well google is full of cash right now, so difficult to say how beneficial is this approach in the long term in less profitable times. )

        • by symbolic (11752) on Friday February 13, 2009 @11:16PM (#26852821)

          I'd say also stop treating the CEOs and upper management like gods. A company's success is the sum of its parts, and the way things are currently structured, I can't see a single thing that would motivate an employee to suggest ideas that would put a new yacht or summer home in the hands of someone else. Spreading the wealth would provide some real incentive.

          Second, if the company's culture has its roots in political infighting and empire building, this kind of environment can't exist. It simply isn't worth the effort when the potential for good ideas to get crushed under the egos of incompetent management.

    • "Come up with a really useful, innovative idea or we're filing for Chapter 11!"
      - February 13th SiriusXM Board Meeting

  • Ownership interest (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HBI (604924) <kparadine AT gmail DOT com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:20PM (#26848533) Homepage Journal

    That was easy.

    • by DrLang21 (900992) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:28PM (#26848667)
      A company I used to work for was really into Kaizan. They did profit sharing, and a metric in deciding how much was received in profit sharing was Kaizan participation. It resulted in a lot of dull ideas, but the shear mass of input resulted in a number of good ideas on a pretty regular basis.
    • by AaxelB (1034884)
      I had an idea somewhat similar to ownership interest, but with more of a direct payout. You could keep track of who submits what idea, and if it becomes something worthwhile/profitable (either through that person's own work or someone else running with it) they get nice bonuses. That way people have the motivation to bring up truly innovative ideas, but can't game the system with crap ideas.

      Of course, you'll still have the problem of new ideas being stifled in bureaucracy, or asshats predicting what the c
    • by geoskd (321194) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:39PM (#26848841)

      That was easy.

      It's even easier than that. All you really have to do is convince your employees that their suggestion might actually get used, and most of them would be perfectly happy to make suggestions just for the bragging rights of being able to say "that was my idea". any kind of public recognition is a bonus, monetary compensation would be top notch, but is by no means necessary.

      The company I work for, by contrast, makes it quite plain that our ideas are not only unwanted but that we should stop trying to waste their time with our ramblings. So be it.

      -=Geoskd

    • by lgw (121541) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:49PM (#26849033) Journal

      It's common in "real" engineering contexts to reward the suggester with a percentage of the value of the idea. For example, a chemical plant might have a suggestion box (anyone can contribute, engineer or not) for lowering the cost of the plant's processes. For any idea they use they'll pay you 10% of the money saved, capped at $1 million. This is actually fairly common, and most plants have a history of large payouts.

      Ownership doesn't come into it: no one's getting stock. But a $1 million check is still a great motivator. You just need a reward proportional to the value of the idea, plus a clear way to establish ownership of suggestions (the second guy to suggest the $1 million idea is going to be annoyed).

      • by stephanruby (542433) on Friday February 13, 2009 @09:56PM (#26852311)

        For any idea they use they'll pay you 10% of the money saved, capped at $1 million. This is actually fairly common, and most plants have a history of large payouts.

        Ideas are cheap. What you need to pay for is the idea *and* the drive to get it implemented. And where it comes to implementation, you need to reward the entire group/team, not just the individual, otherwise people will be working on ideas in isolation from each other, and your colleagues will be more interested in shooting down your ideas than helping you with them.

        Just imagine our k-12 educational system, the children with ideas get rewarded by the teachers, but they have to work in isolation from each other, and often their classmates won't help them -- their classmates will ignore them, or even worse ostracize them, for trying so hard. Now compare this to a team sport for instance, like American football, when a student helps win a trophy for his team/his school, the entire school benefits, but everyone on that team/school knows who is, or who are, the individual(s) of the team that helped get the school that trophy, so that/those individual(s) get rewarded by increased personal prestige and increased social status (at least, within the microcosm of that school).

        In Japan, this is essentially how Edward Demings taught it, and this is essentially how the Japanese have implemented it. Toyota workers do not get rewarded individually. The team gets rewarded first, then whoever came up with the idea gets recognized as the super-star (at least, within his team/group). Now this does not mean that competition doesn't play an important role in there either, it indeed does, but that competition and that recognition is often promoted between the teams and between the groups, and never between individual members of the same team.

    • These typically aren't ideas that 'ownership' matters. One of my old jobs had something like this. They could be as simple as changing some small work procedures to make it smoother on every one to adding a shower/locker room so that people who lived close enough could bike to work. (ROI being that employees were healthier).

      One way of viewing problems is that they are a real life 'bug'. Set up something like Bugzilla and have people submit 'bug' reports. Every feature that is in modern bug tracking software

    • Trust me, ownership interest is not all it's cut up to be. The option that always appealed to me was profit sharing. This has two advantages IMHO: 1) Everyone benefits from everyone's ideas/hard work etc. 2) Those who are leaching off the company tend to be outed by their peers as they're are seen by all as a money drain (i.e. lower profit and lower profit sharing). Profit sharing needs to be done on a yearly basis and prorated for employment time in that year. The poorest set up for profit sharing that I h
  • First idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by srussia (884021) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:20PM (#26848549)
    Whatever you do, discard all first suggestions. They're all just wannabe first posters.
  • by Sigvatr (1207234) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:21PM (#26848551)
    I think first companies need to make employees feel comfortable criticizing their superiors.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dusty00 (1106595)
      Seconded.

      The fact that you have to offer incentives to get employees to make suggestions seems to indicate your current environment is not conducive to suggestions. Rather than try and think of ways to get get employees more involved, you may want to be asking/posing the question to your superiors: Why aren't our employees more involved?
    • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:45PM (#26848977)
      The employees are extremely comfortable doing this. It's the superiors who need some work here.
    • by davejenkins (99111) <slashdotNO@SPAMdavejenkins.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @05:17PM (#26849413) Homepage
      Sigvatr! Get back to work and stop screwing around on the Slashdots!
    • by Thaelon (250687)

      Solicit for the suggestions anonymously.

      Words cannot express how frustrating is to know that constructive criticism of superiors or even peers is hundreds of times more likely to get you fired than being belligerently incompetent and hampering others through your incompetence.

      It's important to keep it in mind that nobody is going to say or do anything that has a possibility of jeopardizing their livelyhood.

      Perhaps all suggestions should be anonymous. Lots of people have really good ideas but are just afrai

  • Define innovation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gribflex (177733) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:22PM (#26848565) Homepage

    I think it's important to define what you are looking for.
    At my company, we had a very similar project for a long time. I always thought innovation meant some incredible break through, or new product line. Turns out, some innovations that were accepted were changes to our coffee vendor, and tests for our new development folk (standard practice in my office, but considered innovative at one of our other sites.)

    Had I know what the quality bar was at the beginning of the project, I would have submitted all kinds of stuff. As it was, I was just waiting for a really great idea.

    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      I think it's important to define what you are looking for.

      Yeah, where I work, people make innovative suggestions all of the time. It's usually management that thinks the ideas are either too far out, or doesn't want to fund development.

      • by avronius (689343) *

        ...management that thinks the ideas are either too far out...

        My brother works for the major telecom provider here in Calgary. He is constantly submitting ideas that he believes might be 'the next big thing'. Generally speaking, they are neat ideas, but more suited to a smaller, more dynamic, niche-type company than a major conglomerate.

        I've heard a handful of his better ideas, and I can see where they would make money - if you already have the infrastructure of the conglomerate.

        A catch-22.

        The big company isn't small enough to realize a significant return. The small

    • by EEPROMS (889169)
      This is actually a common mistake by staff and management. The saying goes "tell my 100 ways to improve business one percent, not one way to improve business ninety-nine percent". The light-bulb moments were great ideas come forward are pretty rare and more often than not are a actually seen as a mistake when they are first seen or discovered. So if you have some silly idea or you find something annoying is happening in your work space and you have an idea on how to fix it, speak up, because in this day and
  • by neo (4625) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:22PM (#26848571)

    Google let's their employees work on their own interesting side projects for 20% of their time. It's resulted in some of their best innovations. The employee is responsible for keeping the project up to date and Google owns it, obviously.

    What motivates people is recognition.

    • by dr_dank (472072) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:31PM (#26848729) Homepage Journal

      What motivates people is recognition

      Recognition doesn't pay the bills. If an idea that makes or saves the company money is rewarded with a healthy bonus, you're apt to get more suggestions than if you hand out a crappy paperweight and a slap on the back.

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:41PM (#26848883)

        At my current employer, all we get is the slap on the back. Because of the bad economy, there's no chance for a raise or bonus, but they've sent us all an email asking us to please continue working hard and coming up with innovative ideas. Yeah, right.

        Any innovative ideas I come up will be kept hidden until I'm out of here.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jeillah (147690)

          My company is about the same. At one time they did have a program that was supposed to foster innovation but it seemed that most of the really good ideas got so bogged down in their "innovation" committee that nothing ever came of it. When will they ever learn that few really good ideas come out of a committee???

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Grishnakh (216268)

            I forgot to mention they recently cut back our patent reward program. There used to be awards for disclosure, filing, granted patents, bonuses for large numbers of patents (5x, 10x, etc.), trade secret awards, publication awards, etc. They cut all that back so now there's a single patent filing award and that's it. But they assure us they'll continue to provide a mechanism for recognition, even though we won't get any money. Yeah, I'm sure people will redouble their efforts in coming up with patentable

        • At my current employer, all we get is the slap on the back. Because of the bad economy, there's no chance for a raise or bonus, but they've sent us all an email asking us to please continue working hard and coming up with innovative ideas. Yeah, right.

          There is a remedy for this attitude which can be summed up as:

          "Third place is you're fired"

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Grishnakh (216268)

            With the way that most of these large companies work these days, that's actually not a big concern, at least not at an individual level. When these companies decide to get rid of people, they lay off entire teams and divisions. It's not really worthwhile to sift through employees and get rid of the average performers; it's a lot of work and time (which can be spent doing other work), and it's really bad for morale, and causes the best people to leave early on their own.

            Of course, if you're a really horrib

        • by stephanruby (542433) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:41PM (#26852635)

          At my current employer, all we get is the slap on the back. Because of the bad economy, there's no chance for a raise or bonus, but they've sent us all an email asking us to please continue working hard and coming up with innovative ideas. Yeah, right. Any innovative ideas I come up will be kept hidden until I'm out of here.

          That's the problem with starting to financially reward people for their ideas, or to financially reward people for a job well done. Once you start doing it, you better keep doing it, otherwise the entire thing will fall apart. People will often complain at not getting raises, but it's infinitely worse if you give someone a raise one year, even if you carefully call it a bonus, and then if you stop paying that "bonus" that following year. So what was done by the employee for its own intrinsic value one year is only then done for its external reward -- every year after.

          It's just like sex for instance, if a husband starts rewarding his wife for having sex with him, let's say by taking out the garbage, or by buying her expensive presents (just like in "Everybody loves Raymond"), he will be unwittingly conditioning her to only see sex as a chore, and a payment for a transaction -- not something to be done for its own intrinsic value. That is one of the reasons I believe that so many married couples in the United States eventually stop having sex with each other. In the US, sex for women is being portrayed as a currency of trade, or as a way to make babies, and not something to be done for its own sake.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Grishnakh (216268)

            You have to remember, however, that the value of money is not constant, due to inflation. Effectively, if your employer doesn't give you a raise, then they're actually giving you less money the next year as they did before. So if you're doing a good job, the employer really should give a raise equal to the inflationary rate, at a minimum, to show that they value you.

            Employers have a nasty habit, due to this, of hiring new people in at more than experienced employees. It frequently pays well to change job

      • Indeed. The paperweight and slap on the back are generally accompanied by a new line on your resume in order to get a better/better paying job.

        (May I also say that I love the sig? =])

    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:32PM (#26848739) Homepage Journal

      I'm going to reply to this post backwards if you don't mind.

      What motivates people is recognition.

      That's one of the things. A guy named Frederick Hertzberg suggested that employees are motivated by a hierarchy of needs.

      They start at the very low levels: Physical Environment, Salary, Job Security, Status, etc.

      Then they proceed to higher levels. Recognition is actually the second highest motivator, and it certainly is a motivator for some. But Google is actually a good example of Hertzberg's highest motivator which is achievement: people are motivated by the work itself. Self-actualization.

      Google let's their employees work on their own interesting side projects for 20% of their time. It's resulted in some of their best innovations. The employee is responsible for keeping the project up to date and Google owns it, obviously.

      Google's employees get to pitch side projects and suggest them to management. IOW, they get to work on what interests them. They are motivated by the actual work. Real Google products started as side projects.

      • by An. (Coward) (258552) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:43PM (#26848929)

        A guy named Frederick Hertzberg suggested that employees are motivated by a hierarchy of needs.

        They start at the very low levels: Physical Environment, Salary, Job Security, Status, etc.

        Then they proceed to higher levels. Recognition is actually the second highest motivator, and it certainly is a motivator for some. But Google is actually a good example of Hertzberg's highest motivator which is achievement: people are motivated by the work itself. Self-actualization.

        That was Abraham Maslow.

      • I don't know if it's so much a psychological "self-actualization" thing as much as it's just simply doing what you like to do. I've done tons of programming (and indeed, got into it in the first place) simply because it was interesting and I liked doing it.

        And, I might add that if Google "lets" their employees work 20% of their time on side projects, that means Google is PAYING them 20% of their salary, essentially, to do those side projects. "For google," still, sure, but it's on Google's time and on Goo

      • by sorak (246725)

        My understanding of this is that it is "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" [wikipedia.org], and that the lower level needs come first, until they have been satisfactorily filled. Then, employees begin to really care about the higher needs.

    • by Flammon (4726)
      Rate parent up. It deserves a 5.
    • That is the formalized version, and large organizations probably can only do it this way. At least my last employer (moderately large international corp) was big on having people work on official projects only. So you need a 20% rule or people will feel pressured to drop that "useless", time consuming tinkering.

      In smaller organizations, a department leader who understands technology and is empowered to make room for the project in the schedule works too. In a really small corp, you might even talk to the gu

  • Failing that...more money.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:25PM (#26848623) Journal
    Homer: [watching vending machine] Apple... Apple... Apple... come on, Candy Bar... [looking at an apple in the machine] Hey, I know you! You're that first apple I didn't want! That sinks it! I'm really gonna get let them have it this time! [writing on a notepad next to the suggestion box] No more apples in the vending machine PLEASE!! Then Mr. Burns gets it and reads it in a demeaning voice "Oh, don't worry, there will be plenty of apples in the vending machine."
  • Simple (Score:3, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:26PM (#26848643)
    What is the best way to encourage workers to suggest new products to be made / researched by the company?
    "Ever since the Phoenicians invented money, there has been only one answer to that question." -- Clarence Darrow
  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:27PM (#26848663)
    Your question is a little confusing - It's not clear to me whether you're asking for a mechanism for employees to make suggestions to 'improve the workplace' ("Gee it sure would be nice to have a ping pong table!") or a mechanism for them to make suggestions for feature improvements ("We should build a Linux version of your application!").

    If it's the former, be careful. Generally, employee suggestions for workplace improvements cost money (real or perceived), be it "pizza Friday," a ping pong table or better telecommuting policies. Unless you have buy-in from upper management for a genuine $$$ budget for 'morale' these requests just to into a black hole, so why bother providing the mechanism? Make sure you have a budget first.

    If it's the latter, I've never worked for a company yet that didn't have a shortage of employee suggestions of good ideas for a given product. Sales is full of suggestions. The tricky part is having a mechanism to evaluate & estimate those suggestions, build business cases and all that tricky stuff...
  • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:30PM (#26848709)

    How To Encourage Workers To Suggest Innovation?

    1) Pay "workers" for each suggestion.
    2) Ensure that each "worker" is made aware that the "worker" owns the ideas he submits to the company, and that the company will offer to license the ideas from the "worker" if Management deems the ideas "good enough" to implement
    3) Ensure that the following are NOT offered as incentives: "raffles", "prizes" and (like one company I worked for offered, the "opportunity" to win the privilege of having breakfast with a Manager). This should be common sense for ANYBODY who has studied Management, the Social Sciences, Psychology, etc. But unfortunately the type of people who get into Human Resource Management don't usually have the brightest light bulbs.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      ...the "opportunity" to win the privilege of having breakfast with a Manager. Yeah, but at least you can understand why the manager signed off on this offer -- he gets a free breakfast regardless of what happens!
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      But unfortunately the type of people who get into Human Resource Management don't usually have the brightest light bulbs.

      Well here's a free, innovative idea I'm giving away to all companies: get rid of your Human Resources department! They don't do anything useful, they actually create roadblocks to bringing in good employees, and they cost money. Deming said long ago that HR was a useless function and should be eliminated.

    • Somewhat along those lines, I would say that the "best" way to encourage suggestions for new products, is to give the employee a piece of the product. Say maybe 1% of the gross revenue (depends on the type of product, sales volume, etc.) or some similar arrangement. That way the employee really feels ownership in a tangible way.

      One reason for doing this is: if the employee feels he/she has a good idea, that employee may well be in a position to leave the company and take that idea with them. Keeping it i
  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:31PM (#26848723)

    Take cues from George Westinghouse instead of Thomas Edison. Edison screwed over Tesla who then took his genius to Westinghouse who then won the war of the currents.

  • Raffle? WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:32PM (#26848735)

    Do they raffle off other benefits, like health care?

    It has already been said -- if you want something of value from your employees, pay them for it. Thats how the whole "work" thing works.

    Either pony up the cash or let them use the time they are already paid for to think about how to innovate.

  • Accept some (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:35PM (#26848767)

    It's very demoralizing when leaders encourage employees to proffer innovative ideas, and then basically ignores them. Or equally bad, shows favoritism in which ones are acted upon.

    I can't imagine anything that would shut down employee participation faster than a sense that management isn't actually willing to act on them.

  • Listen (Score:2, Insightful)

    by assertation (1255714)

    The biggest deterrent to getting ideas is to ignore advice. If you want to encourage employees to come up with new ideas make them feel like they are seriously listened too.

  • by Foofoobar (318279) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:40PM (#26848853)
    If I come up with an idea that the company patents, give me partial ownership of the patent. Otherwise I'm keeping my mouth shut until long after my contract expires. There is no incentive when I know the company is making millions and I only get a new iPod.
  • They simply need to ask themselves: Is this good for the company? [flickr.com]

  • Money.

    Yes, for 99% of us, the answer IS that simple. It really doesn't matter of you make propellers, pizza, or porno, most people know that their idea is likely going to generate the company upwards of millions of dollars. Freaking kills me that 99% of the time, the inventor is left holding the jelly-of-the-month club membership as a "token of appreciation".

    Money. Real money. Your company is going to make it. It's only fair you get a decent cut of that.

    • by Xtravar (725372)

      How about just plain ol' respect?

      It comes in many ways. Money, power, or just giving your ideas the consideration they deserve.

      Whenever something breaks, I'm the one they turn to. Whenever something difficult needs to be done, my team consults me.

      Then every once in awhile my lead will consult me on something, but will give me crap until I come back with the answer he wants to hear rather than the real answer. Usually the reason is because sales/management is involved. It's just disheartening, especially

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:43PM (#26848939) Journal
    If you are considering the "money" suggestion you should probably keep the quirks of human psychology in mind. Excluding the stone-cold-homo-economicus types(who are fairly rare in practice), most people can be motivated for almost no money, or a good deal of money; but often won't be motivated by just a little money.

    A lot of people voluntarily do valuable work, or come up with valuable ideas, for essentially no money, because there is something else that hooks them. Think Free Software people, various sorts of volunteers, people who do more than they need to at work, and so on. People will also, obviously, be motivated by large amounts of money(large being a relative measure).

    The middle ground, though, can be a bad idea. People think about economic and non-economic activity differently. Somebody who would submit a linux kernel patch for free might well be insulted if they were offered rentacoder rates for their work. Somebody who will voluntarily suggest a valuable process improvement just because he takes pride in his work would probably not be pleased by a toaster. This [joelonsoftware.com]is a somewhat interesting piece on the subject.

    Either you create an environment that gives people the social warm and fuzzies(this includes paying decent money; but relies on social factors) or you give people real rewards to motivate them. Nobody on a professional salary is going to innovate for condescension and peanuts. They'll innovate because the environment is good and they want to, or for real money.
  • This [youtube.com] was the first thing I thought of. Too bad being pulled into the bosom of a hot chick in a leather or latex power suit and having your hair stroked will never be a common method of promoting innovation. Sigh.
  • by Xavyor (772119) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:45PM (#26848975)
    The US Air Force has the IDEA program that allows anyone who works for them suggest changes to anything. If that change ends up saving money, they cut a check for a percentage of that savings to the person/group who submitted the change.
  • i'd go out and start my own damn company, then interview my former boss for a position

    ideas are power in the world of technology. asking your employees to give them to you for a fucking raffle (seriously?) is like buying the island of manhattan for trinkets. if my idea is good enough, i deserve a reward better than something akin to an "employee of the month" plaque at mcdonalds

    but don't worry, you'll still get plenty of ideas. all sparse, vague, and minor: you get what you pay for

    if you want a serious reply to your question, if you actually want good ideas that actually offers serious enough implications for your company's future OFFER THEM STOCK AND AN EQUITY STAKE

    not a fucking raffle. frankly, your quesiton is insulting

  • The Economist has its annual Innovation Awards (since 2002). Besides listing the several categories it gives selection criteria. What's not directly applicable to answering the question should at least serve as a parallel example. The recipients are to be individuals rather than corporate, even though the innovation from those individuals may result in a corporate entity.

    http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10676339 [economist.com]

  • by Zerth (26112)

    I did several things recently that improved my company's capability to produce and reduced my budget expenses. Do you know what I got?

    I got to keep my budget, so now I can spend it on more things that will increase output.

    Unlike some places, where I'd just lose the extra money and thus have to be stupid to try. I never understood that logic.

  • by aaandre (526056) on Friday February 13, 2009 @04:56PM (#26849107)

    1. Respect their ideas and consider them.
    2. If you implement an idea, reciprocate the value with appreciation and acknowledgment for everyone involved.
    3. Follow up even on ideas you don't implement and express genuine appreciation for someone taking time out of their day and give you a free piece of advise.
    4. Make it safe for people to suggest ideas that may be contrary to what upper management feels is right, convenient or is otherwise uptight about.

  • Reviewed by a board, and then maybe, they get a prize after their name is drawn? I see that as total bullshit, treating your employees as children. And thinking you are not, which makes it worse.

    Why do I suspect that when you say "prize" you don't mean a million dollars in 20 $50k installments over 20 years? Maybe something like a $10 gift card to Starbucks? Am I close?

    How about this: give cash - or stock, not options, stock - to people who's ideas are implemented? Straight up: you have a good idea not with
  • The group of workers with more ideas participates in a raffle to receive a prize.

    <SARCASM>Oooh! A raffle for a prize! I might get a stuffed animal! I hope it's a kitty...<SARCASM>

    The federal government can award an employee 10% of money saved for a money saving idea (up to a limit). If your company's incentive program is worse than the government's, it's time to polish up the resume.

    But really, recognizing your smart employees and having enough respect to listen to them and actually co

  • The group of workers with more ideas participates in a raffle to receive a prize.

    If I was at your company my first thought would be "Oh boy! A chance at being in a group that has a chance of winning a prize! Where do I sign up?"

    Come on. Who is going to be enthusiastic about that?

    If you want real results, reward everyone who comes up with an idea that gets used. And make it substantial. If you give out a $5 gift certificate, then you're going to get a slew of five dollar ideas.

  • you need to make the process that happens AFTER suggestions are submitted transparent to the employees.

    If they get the feeling that the idea box is a black hole, with no feedback at all on what ideas are being looked at or why some of them aren't such good ideas (or are good but impractical, etc) they won't bother making the effort.

  • You will not get good suggestions until people see some ideas put into play and getting recognition for it.

    I've been at this place for 3 years and have been spewing out ideas to make things better. Sometimes I get shot down but many times I get the "that a great idea" kudo. But guess what: NOTHING HAPPENS from it.

    Now I just don't bother suggesting anything and I'm planning to move on before I go postal. If upper MGMT doesn't give a damn, why should I?

  • In too many companies, the technical direction is driven not by technical leads, but by MBAs in middle-management. If your individual contributors have to run their innovations by a non-technical manager, your organization is broken, IMO. If you empower your employees not just to "suggest innovation" but to actually innovate, you're far better off. This means putting technical people in charge of setting technical direction, and accommodating an individual's work that was not strictly prescribed at the s

  • Some form of defined ongoing benefit...

    This would really only work for new products/services as opposed to improving existing things I think, but I suggest a new product, with my help the company builds it, I should get some percentage of the profits of said product... If its not profitable, I don't make anything extra.

    I have at least 10-20 ideas of new things that should be built at any one time... Sure not all of them are germane to my current employer's business, but at least 5 of them are. Will I give

  • For motivation, replies are basically falling into two categories: money and recognition. I'd like both, but either is fine.

    For the folks that say recognition is corporate-speak for no money and cash is king, where did Linux come from? For that matter, where is money to be made putting effort into an insightful /. comment?

    But your #1 barrier, as an employer trying to spark employee innovation, is yourself.

    No gets any satisfaction seeing their great idea die. There's no money or recognition in getting you

  • The parent seems like it is asking for product improvements and break room changes in the same suggestion box. That seems like a bad idea. For general work place improvements, think of buying all your employees 1 GB USB flash drives. 5 years ago that might have been both ahead of the curve work place improvement and morale booster. Now, you'll get an app that requires USB key flash drives to log in and you'll need to provide them anyway. It all comes down to money. We've been wanting to provide 80 USB key

  • Pussy (Score:3, Funny)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday February 13, 2009 @05:29PM (#26849595) Journal
    Keep a couple easy HR girls that flirt entirely too much, and leave them with a date with Yatori in HR. Asian girl makes some totally inappropriate advances after dinner...
  • Make them a partner in their idea. Pay them a percentage of the royalties, put them in charge of the project. Give them the feeling that since it was their idea, that their creativity is not being used and tossed aside once the money rolls in. Of course, if it fails, then it's their deal...

    Nah. The only reason for this article is to trick your employees into giving you ideas that you can't come up with for yourself. You get paid all this money for being an idea person, and yet, you've got to farm yo
  • Why is approval necessary? Why can't if an employee has a good idea he can't just do it without approval?

    The persons who are often best able to judge whether an innovation is a good idea are those directly working in the area and often those at the bottom of the hierarchy. Forming a board of non experts to evaluate innovation is probably the best way to kill innovation. If you want to encourage innovation think about decentralizing your decision making.

  • Seriously, all of the responses here are good, but they address the symptom of your problem, not the problem.

    Your problem is that you don't have a culture of innovation. You need to create a culture of innovation, to do that you need to fix some things.

    1) You are doing performance reviews wrong. Don't feel bad, almost everyone is. Fix that.

    2) Your workers think that innovation is optional and something that is a bonus. Innovation is an expected part of your job, and if you are not innovating you are not d

  • That's got to be the most pathetic incentive scheme I've ever heard of! A chance at a raffle ticket?!!!

    How about a scheme where:

    1) The employee actually benefits (radical, huh?) if their new product idea is adopted and,

    2) The employee doesn't lose out by suggesting new product ideas that the company isn't willing to adopt

    So, for example:

    1) Large cash bonus or stock options for any new product idea the company wants to develop, and

    2) Company reverts rights to undeveloped product ideas back to employee

  • If you want workers to innovate, pay them to do it.

    Don't read management self-help books; talk to folks who did it in your field:
    Information? Google (at one time), Small Manufacturing: Lincoln Electric (recent history), Automotive: Saturn, HMMA

    Wages:
    If I'm an Engineer whose job is to create and implement profitable designs, pay me a competitive rate.

    Bounties:
    If I'm a line worker whose job is to put parts in machines and slap two buttons--and I come up with an idea that saves/earns the company money, give

  • If I have a good idea, I'm not going to tell my employer about it. I'm going to develop it on my own, at home, and patent the sucker myself. Why should I let the company in on it?
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:17PM (#26850253) Homepage

    No special motivation is needed. If employees believe they are being listened to, they'll suggest ideas. Everybody has ideas about how to do things better, and everybody loves to talk about them.

    I have no idea what the committees and prizes are about, but you may be sure your employees are getting a mixed message. If they are not producing ideas, it is because there is some other dynamic going on that is inhibiting them. You need to find out what that is and remove it, not fiddle around trying to oppose it with raffles and "recognition."

    By the way, there's nothing so demotivating as seeing the people who won the plaques and the gift certificates get laid off.

    For example, perhaps your company has a culture in which employees are told what to do instead of what goals are to be achieved, and punished if they achieve the desired goals in a manner different than prescribed. Employees quickly learn that procedure is everything, and that nobody wants to know a better but different way from getting from point A to point B.

Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.

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