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The Paradox of Grass Roots Innovation and Employee Engagement

team innovation.jpgMuch is written about welcoming new generations to our workforces, gen X, Y’s or millennial’s and what they need and want from working.  Engaged employees are said to be more productive, so what does it take to connect, engage and build loyalty with all our employees?  Every business dreams of having a highly engaged workforce.

Engagement programs are most likely alive and well within your company today.   Are they working? Are they really engaging your employees in helping drive the very future of the company?  

Tonja Erismann in her blog “4 Steps To Establish An Innovation DNA In Your Organization” takes an innovative approach to engaging the employee base to help establish an innovation culture, which according to her, had a positive impact.  So is it taking a giant leap to think about using grass roots innovation to achieve engagement and innovation?

Lets explore engagement and innovation a bit further. Some companies organize and run idea capture campaigns that are focused on a specific innovation topic or business challenge.  There are many pitfalls to this approach if not well managed.  Many never really get further than the classical “suggestion box”. Employees can just as easily be disengaged and demotivated if programs like this are not well designed and managed. 

Plant the seed.jpgBut if well managed, these programs can actually target any aspect within the full spectrum of potential areas for business innovation beyond R&D:

  • Internal process optimization, cost reduction and organization improvement
  • Incremental product and service innovation
  • Strategic product and service innovation
  • Breakthrough innovation that pushes the boundaries of your current business models
  • New business ideas

Given the opportunity, would you take the risk and submit that burning idea you have? Can you trust the process? Will your idea be given due consideration or will it end up in a black hole never to be seen again? 

My personal experience with managing innovation would encourage you not to launch such a program unless you have the foundation in place to really manage the process professionally, with transparency and real results.  And the best results will only materialize with executive sponsorship and intent to find ideas that can become innovations, a dedicated budget and resources to pilot or implement the best ideas. 

On the flip side, can you imagine the opportunity your company has to actually run one program and achieve dual results – employee engagement and a more innovative business? With your help these concepts do not need to be a paradox!  If you make it a part of your corporate culture, which means no One-Hit-Wonders, a well-managed Grass Roots Innovation initiative can be a driving force to help motivate, engage and retain some of your top talent, not to mention drive an innovative business.  It’s a tall order, but it is achievable. You have a chance to really impact the Business of Innovation within your organization and engage employees in a truly meaningful way.

I will share more thoughts and experience about Innovation Management in my upcoming blogs…

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