Companies understand how important it is to unlock their workforce’s creativity. In this article we take a look a five case studies which show how certain companies are doing just that.
When you are given a box by your boss, it’s normally bad news.
But Adobe’s ‘red box’ is different. Inside, there’s a Starbucks gift card, a selection of candy, and a cool $1000 to spend on an idea you’ve always thought would make your company millions. All employees have to do to participate is attend an Adobe worldwide workshop, which teaches them how to deliver on their ideas.
Maggie Zhang states: ‘In the first phase, employees are encouraged to find supporters, define goals, gather relevant data, and pick a date to launch their project; by the last phase, they pitch their idea to the organization’.
It isn’t, however, a quick process. The next stage is a ‘blue box’ - the contents of which depend on the project- but most are rewarded two years after the initial red box was issued - and the majority don’t get that far.
Even if an initial idea fails, employees are encouraged to reapply. It’s not just a scheme to fend off workers who feel they are never listened to either. Adobe’s acquisition of Fotolia, a photography marketplace, came from a red box suggestion. The project has bred new life into Adobe’s innovation function, empowering their staff to work on ideas they are passionate about.
While not as glitzy as Kickstarter, the underlining goal of Linkedin’s ‘[in]cubator’ is the same - to give a voice to the masses.
Every quarter, employees are encouraged to put forward ideas, get a team together and craft a pitch to senior management. If approved, the team are then given three months to make something of it. They have free rein to pick which part of the business they want to improve, meaning that the company is fresh with ideas all the time.
The incubator gives people a voice, irrespective of their position at the company.
Launched in 2011, AT&T have invested $100 million in Foundry. The Huffington Post stated that the one of the main goals of the initiative is ‘to shorten the innovation life-cycle’ and give employees the opportunity to present ideas to senior managers.
The project’s most important discovery was ‘Cascade’, which allows drivers to send and receive text messages in their connected vehicles. Other interesting projects include the smart bin and a dashboard messenger.
Employees who are keen to enact their ideas are invaluable. Yet many are frustrated that they have no outlet to do so. This was exactly what Hans Sandholt, a system engineer, experienced at Ericsson.
His idea, according to Fast Company, was to ‘create a series of software upgrades that could be installed in the microwave equipment in the field to essentially reprogram it rather than replace it as the broadcast technology changes.’ Ericsson listened. And there’s now less hardware to change, and a product that’s constantly evolving.
‘Ideaboxes’ was first introduced in 2008. It’s comparable to a large scale brainstorming exercise - employees post their ideas to an online forum, where they are subject to a vote. The employee responsible for each idea becomes the ‘manager’, and tweaks the original concept depending on feedback.
It’s then made into a ‘box’. And at this stage, hundreds of employees weigh in with their ideas, until a decision is made about whether it’s worth being implemented.
Appliance manufactures aren’t normally at the forefront of innovation. But Whirlpool’s internal empowerment program has been crucial to its innovation capabilities.
Every idea is opened up to the whole workforce, who follow an ideation process. According to the Huffington Post this includes: ‘idea generation, basic business case formation, competition for the development of the idea, testing and experimentation, and finally, large-scale commercialization.’
Whirlpool has proven that you don’t need to be flashy to innovate.