Creating the conditions to innovate

I did some work with a new client which offered some fascinating insights into what is required to get people to participate in sharing ideas.

I had the opportunity to launch the initiative at our new customer’s conference – their top 100 managers were in a luxurious hotel in Scotland for two days. Innovation was a key theme.

I did a short presentation to follow-up on the keynote from a Board Director and introduced the task which was to use the TalkFreely software to respond to some strategic challenges with ideas, comments and votes. I then showed them how to do it. Every table of 10 people had an ipad and instructions on how to use their smartphones or laptops and asked them to enter, comment and rate some of the existing ideas before the next session the following morning.

Before I reveal the results, I need to introduce a model that we use to explain what we call the Adoption Challenge.

e0.5

The graph above basically says that if you offer people the option of doing their day job AND participating in idea sharing or just do their day job, most people will just do what they are paid to do and adoption is likely to be low, ie, most people will defer and do nothing (none), some people will View, a much smaller number will Rate, an even smaller number will comment and very few will offer ideas. The left hand activity (none) is easy and by comparison and the further right you go, the harder it gets. I think this model works for all corporate comms, not just ideas.

The graph below shows what happened in the first morning. Remember, they were sitting amongst their peers of the most qualified, highest paid managers in the business. The numbers are per table, so out of 10 managers, there were 15 page views so each person looked at just over one page before they gave up. There were just 11 ratings (the strategic challenges had some ideas against them already), 5 comments were put against these ideas, and 3 new ideas were offered.

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The following day I had another opportunity to present, but this time we got completely different results as you can see from the graph below. There were three times more views, more than ten times more idea ratings and more than three times more comments and ideas.

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What was the difference? The difference was simple, but provides a powerful lesson in what you need to do to motivate people to participate. The second time around I;

– Had the CEO introduce it, make it compelling and give it context

– Made it fun and rewarding (I had a range of prizes – mostly fun)

– Made it collaborative (I gave them an introduction to some innovation techniques and they had time to work together)

– Carefully showed people how to do it so as to remove any barriers (perceived or real)

The last nugget of insight I got from this experience which I believe is useful to share is the same graph, but just showing the activity from the person that offered the most ideas – 7 in total in one session. But notice that they didn’t rate or comment on other people’s ideas. They were very creative, but also very selfish. This is quite normal.

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