Thursday, January 24, 2008

Innovation Motivation

In what may seem like yet another glaring inconsistency where innovation is concerned, probably one of the most significant barriers to innovation is personal motivation. Now, you may say - "Everybody wants to create new stuff - what's not to like?" While innovation sounds great as a slogan, when put into practice it can be very difficult to implement.

The challenge is that while management teams sponsor innovation and innovation initiatives, they often forget to change how people are evaluated or compensated. So, when the teams are called on to generate ideas or manage ideas, they are initially very excited. After all, who doesn't want to generate and manage new ideas? But then the reality sets in.

There's no incentive model, no section of their evaluation form, no compensation that aligns to the innovation work, yet the innovation work requires significant time away from regular tasks. So, the question becomes - where should I spend my time? I want to work on innovation, but my supervisor doesn't want me to spend my time outside of my regular duties. If I do get called into an innovation program, can I afford to spend time on that program and keep my regular duties up to date? What happens if I participate and fail? How will my work be compensated and evaluated.

Ultimately, people do what they are motivated and compensated to do. If we don't impact everyone's motivation, compensation and evaluation metrics to encourage participation in innovation, then we'll end up with a lot of folks who are excited about innovation possibilities but can't commit any time since they aren't compensated or rewarded on an innovation basis. This leads to frustration and a sense that the management team isn't serious about innovation.

If you don't change how people are compensated and evaluated, yet expect them to participate in innovation initiatives, you'll find a few people who are interested will show up, regardless of the cost to them, and the remainder are very half-hearted or simply cannot commit the time and resources necessary to make innovation work.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 9:04 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that innovation motivation is key. In our study of thirty or more companies trying to establish breakthrough innovation programs and build a portfolio of innovation projects this was a continuing problem. The types of rewards that work best is somewhat dependent on a company's innovation capacity or context for innovation. Providing an information rich environment and opportunities to collaborate with individuals with diverse skill abilities. One also has to have clarity about exactly what is to be accomplished by innovation and link the rewards to that. But that is difficult because often the goal of innovation especially breakthrough innovation increased long term performance... so you have to think of some appropriate interim incentives.

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