Every company on Earth claims it is pursuing and actively fostering innovation, but come on—if that were the case, everyone would be Google. The truth is that, for most, unlocking innovation is about as well understood as using black magic to summon spirits. But in an article for Harvard Business Review, Dylan Minor, Paul Brook, and Josh Bernoff take data from 3.5 million employees to arrive at more concrete, definitive pathways to enabling innovation.
The research was derived from five years’ worth of data from 154 public companies that use Spigit, an idea management system: “people can post ideas, get votes, deliver or respond to feedback, and develop the ideas into innovations that make a difference to the company.” Since Spigit is specifically designed for idea-sharing, it made it easy to precisely track how ideas were being conceived, reviewed, and acted upon.
Ultimately, the authors identified from this data four key variables that affect the rate of innovation in a business:
- Scale (of employee participation)
- Frequency (of ideas generated)
- Engagement (of people evaluating ideas)
- Diversity (of roles of people contributing)
These insights are so straightforward and yet have been evidently overlooked by the majority of businesses. It all boils down, in my perspective, to being about brute force: Get a lot of people to think of a lot of ideas and subject those ideas to rigorous evaluation. Something valuable is going to stick, and if this process is constantly ongoing, then that means something valuable is regularly going to be sticking.
That being said, you should have some focus on the types of innovation you are hoping to find:
To get to a set of promising ideas whose implementation would make sense, you need to sift through a lot of candidates. To succeed, a company needs to create frequent idea challenges for its employees. These challenges reinforce a culture of innovation and generate more ideas going into the pipeline. While there is a great deal of variation based on the types of ideas and the companies reviewing them, on average, it takes five idea candidates to generate one idea that the company judges to be worth implementing.
The article goes on to describe an example at an industrial manufacturer, where an administrative assistant managed to generate a huge win for her business by suggesting an idea she had seen in the movie Minority Report. You never know what will stick until you actually speak up and suggest it.
You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/10/data-from-3-5-million-employees-shows-how-innovation-really-works