Spare Time Innovation
It's said that Jack Welch has told many audiences - "Show me a salesman's time card and I'll tell you how he is compensated". What Welch means is that people put their time and effort into work that they believe will be valued by the organization and for which they'll be compensated. Sales people spend time with customers when they are compensated for those actions. Likewise, employees within an innovative firm are motivated to participate in innovation because they are 1) caught up in the culture, 2) don't want to be seen as a laggard 3) recognize it's important to the company but most importantly 4) know they can be compensated for great ideas.
Contrast this with many firms I speak with on a regular basis. Most individuals in firms I speak with tell me they are "too busy" to innovate consistently or effectively. They try to do some innovative stuff, but it has to happen around their "jobs". Obviously in these organizations innovation is not taken very seriously. It appears that innovation is some sort of "add on" and not part of a regular business process. Innovation is something you do on your "spare time".
Who's got spare time anymore? All I want for Christmas is one more hour a day to accomplish all the stuff I need to get done. If my firm tells me innovation is important, but that I should spend my spare time on it, nothing will get done around innovation, and it's clear that the senior management does not support innovation as a serious business focus.
How can you tell when they are serious? Not when they: have an executive speak about the importance of innovation, or when they release a press release, or even when they install a new computer system to support innovation. No, you'll know when they are serious when: innovation becomes part of your measurements and objectives, and when the compensation plan changes to reward you for spending time innovating, and when individuals and teams are recognized for innovation.
Spare time innovation is a waste of time and effort. To see if your firm really values innovation, check your paystub, your corporate handbook and your evaluation forms.