Innovation needs more than ideas

I’ve been amazed at the sudden growth in interest among large organizations in what i call Workforce Innovation. It seems that in these tight economic times the executive are trying to extract as much value as they can from the resources on their doorstep; the workers.

The funny thing is that this is no new phenomenon, we’ve seen it all before. Most organizations, public and private, have at some time asked their workers for ideas on how to improve the business, and nearly all have found it to be a complete waste of time. Most of the ideas the bosses get back they either know already or are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard! Once they’ve sifted through the gripes and whines, the insanely uneconomic proposals and the simply stupid they are left with the handful that they recognize as the seeds they planted themselves at the start of the exercise, or variations thereof.

If your organization did this (or is planning an equally futile exercise), take heart, just because it didn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to do. Asking employees for their ideas is like taking them to a stony desert and asking them to fill buckets with rocks, then employing someone to sift through the rocks looking for gold nuggets. Why not just tell everyone that one is looking for gold and show them what it looks like?

Ah innovation! If only it was just about ideas…