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How Organizations Foster Innovation through Incentives

In my last post, I talked about how top executives across all major industries today are feeling that innovation is crucial, and some of the best ways to foster and manage it general.

Today, I’ll outline how organizations can help foster innovation through incentives.

There are two traditional ways of incenting employees: Reward and Recognition.

We’ve seen both being used at organizations. Some reward good ideas that have been submitted, while most reward completed ideas. Sometimes it’s with gift cards or bonuses, and sometimes it’s with their face up on the wall.

There are three obvious types of people you’ll want think about an incentive program around:

  1. The Ideator
    This is the person who came up with the idea. Most of the time the incentives here are simple. If the idea helps them with their job or makes their day better, they usually want it done. That’s usually the best incentive to get them to submit an idea. Just be clear on what you want to achieve with your idea program (see: Clear Goals and Strategy: What Do You Want to Achieve through Your Idea Program?).
  2. The Implementer
    This person is actually on the hook to get the idea done. The incentives here become more complicated. Sometimes none are necessary, while sometimes it can be a financial reward, but most of the time, recognition to that person does the job. If you make people who come up with ideas and implement them heroes at your organization, people will normally strive to that status.
  3. The Champion
    Usually forgotten, this is the person who is politically backing the idea program. This person is usually rewarded with political clout if all goes well. In the best organizations we’ve worked with, this person has their compensation based on different measures of the program.

The key thing to remember here is that you never want to bribe your employees for ideas. If the incentives are too direct, you’ll end up getting ideas employees think you want, not ideas they think are good.

In closing, note that employees can only be motivated so much by financial rewards. So think about other ways you can reward them: dinner with the CEO, being on the implementation team, etc.

This post is an updated version of an answer I wrote on Quora. Click here to view the original.

Harness the power of employee ideas.