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Tag: employee engagement

Understanding the Source of Employee Innovation

Boredom is one of those facets of life that consistently amaze. How can any person be bored when there is so much around us that stimulates our intellect and inspires our awe? And why do we continuously and mindlessly scroll through television channels and facebook feeds instead of focusing our energy on creating something of beauty or value?

Boredom persists. In the workplace, we call this phenomenon, disengagement. All managers dread this and go to great lengths to improve engagement in the workplace. Whether it’s motivating staff, reaching customers, or simply having a conversation, employers want engaging interactions. They crave opinions and other forms of employee feedback, especially when those choice pieces of feedback help to directly further company goals.

The dilemma is, how do managers create engagement? Employees can’t be beaten with sticks (you can try but your HR team will likely frown upon it). You can’t yell at people to not be bored or to focus more.

No, the secret to employee engagement is curiosity and challenge. When people are challenged, their minds will naturally start formulating solutions. We call this, creativity. Marketing people call it, innovation. What follows are a few pieces of advice to encourage innovation (or creativity) from your employees.

Engagement Powers Activate!

Each day, we are flooded with information and stimuli. Take, for example, that little number in the corner of your inbox that numbers emails in the thousands or tens of thousands. Those are pieces of information that we have to analyze, prioritize and process. Our brains sort this information into two buckets — interesting and unworthy.

We actually have a dedicated neural network that manages this process which is called, The Reticular Activating System (RAS).  The RAS has two main functions; 1) highlighting relevant information in real time, and 2) stimulating pattern recognition to fuel innovative thinking.

In terms of our biology, the RAS monitors our shift between rest and wakefulness. Functionally, as it applies to how we communicate and perform throughout the day, the RAS determines whether we should tune stimuli out or tune them in.

Recognizing how the RAS functions provides an opportunity to improve engagement in the workplace. It can help us determine how we communicate and how often. Should we send someone thirty emails or have a ten minute conversation?

Are people falling asleep in meetings? If they look disengaged or bored, they are tuning you out. That means it’s time to change the content or format of your meeting. When people are engaged, they are attentive and responsive in meetings. They inspired to be more creative in their tasks and find new ways to accomplish their goals.

Reinforcing Engagement

Useful information activates the RAS to pay attention. When new or interesting information is in front of us, we focus. When that moment passes in a meeting, and we are told information that is irrelevant or that we already know, our RAS prompts us to disengage.

The best way to engage employees is to give them something that inspires curiosity. Being told a statement requires no thought on the part of the person to whom information is being conveyed. Being asked a question, though, prompts us to think about the answer.

The more questions we ask others, the more that they feel engaged – and that engagement persists over time as long as the questions remain pertinent. A question becomes part of our subconscious, and as time goes on, we are drawn to information that relates to what we were asked.

Leading Staff to Innovate

People managers can use the Reticular Activating Systems of their employees to engage staff in positive directions for the company. But do people always view the company’s success as their own success? How can you keep your staff focused and have them care about outcomes?

One way is to engage your staff by enrolling them in creating their own personal quarterly objectives that are tied to the quarterly objectives of the team and the company.

Another way to engage your staff is to move them away from a focus on individual success and towards a focus on success for the team. You can ask them what can be done to improve a situation and encourage them to crowdsource ideas from the rest of the staff. People who are challenged and curious and who are working towards a collective goal are more likely to innovate, instead of just passively doing their jobs.

Finally, let them know that their ideas have value through consistent recognition and reward.

Companies can provide personal incentives (a bonus or recognition of a job well done) to motivate individual participation. Employees learn that contributing to the company’s success will produce personal success for them as well.

Low employee engagement continues to baffle Human Resource professionals, middle managers, and company leaders the world over. But the solution is really not that complicated. Pay attention to employees and notice when they tune out and when they tune in. Then ask questions to keep them curious and challenge them so that their natural propensity towards innovation remains activated.

This blog is a guest post by David Mizne, Content Strategist of 15five

Open Innovation: A critical success factor when you build your innovation journey

We are currently experiencing one of the most significant transformations of our history. In 2030, 75% of the global employees will be “digital natives,” who grew up surrounded by mobile devices, mobile communication and the Internet. “The Internet of Things” has become a reality and more than 1 billion users are online in social networks everyday, influencing products and brands. Their interactive behavioral patterns are constantly shifting and a pre-digital world is now inconceivable.

The process of Digital Transformation is not a new phenomenon – it started many years ago and we understand it as a phenomenon with two major dimensions:

  • Technological change (and digital data processing as one part of it).
  • A large scale transformational process that is comprised of strategic, organizational and socio-cultural changes as the second part.

The combination of these processes has a major impact on the way we work and the way we lead. Digital transformation challenges established new business models and management approaches. Therefore, when we talk about digital transformation, we refer to all the changes that are driven by the rapid development of digital technology.

Most of the companies we talk to have to ask themselves two key questions: What do we need to be successful in the digital age? and How can we change the way we work and the way we interact with our customers, to ensure that we know their needs at all times to respond in an agile and fast way?

As a consequence there is not a “one size fits all” solution – each company needs a unique plan to drive innovation and change successfully. However, there are some proven measures with high impact on revenue growth, cost and time savings and improved effects on customer satisfaction – one of them Open Innovation (also known as crowdsourcing). Recently in the Gartner 2016 CIO Survey, they discovered that crowdsourcing is one of the most effective, leased used digital innovation practices, which correlates with the highest digital return.

I encourage each company (regardless of size and industry) to discover the power that can be generated by working with a crowd to develop and improve solutions and service offerings. That crowd can be comprised of your employees, your clients or your ecosystem. However, successful innovation management goes beyond the research and development department. On the contrary, it aims to involve each individual – a major step towards cultural change in the digital age!

Don’t leave innovation to chance. Digital technology has changed the possibilities open to clients – and they utilize those possibilities by changing the rules. They now expect simple, seamless and personalized user experiences – anytime, anywhere and on any device. A company’s success therefore depends on maintaining a dialogue with the outside world. This goal can only be achieved by working closely together in a sustainable way – crowdsourcing allows you to do just that.

Embedded in your overall corporate strategy, Open Innovation is one key success criteria of your innovation journey and your chance for instant change. Want to learn more? Check this out: Silicon Valley meets Europe – Innovation Tour.

 This blog is a re-post of an original that appeared on Linkedin Pulse

Five Tips for Selling Your Executive Team on Crowdsourcing’s Value

Get everyone on board with crowdsourcing.

Why do companies resist crowdsourcing? It’s a tough question, and if you’re looking to boost crowdsourcing as a solution, it can seem a tough obstacle to overcome. The trick, however, is knowing why there’s resistance and having a good explanation for it. Here are five common objections to crowdsourcing from the executive suite, and how to respond to them and get your crowdsourcing started.

Lay Out A Clear, Sensible Path

By far the biggest obstacle crowdsourcing faces is that for many companies, it’s unexplored turf. The best way to push back is to point out bold moves that worked internally before and to present similar success stories from your industry. If your competitors are working on crowdsourcing, point that out as well; a thoughtful approach is better than ignoring something, after all.

Know Your Crowd

Another objection is that many companies are simply so narrowly focused that crowdsourcing is pointless. In this case, it’s worth counteracting that you’ll largely find an audience among people already interested in your industry, such as your customers, and they’ll already know your products and industry inside and out. Besides, crowdsourcing is built on the idea that we can easily see the trees — so what about the forest? Outside opinions can help refine even the most specialized industries, and a small, focused crowd is more manageable. If anything, being specialized is a benefit.

Start Internally

A common objection is that outsiders shouldn’t be looking at sensitive company data, so start with internal crowdsourcing. Even small companies should regularly be asking employees for ideas: After all, they’re in the industry, and nobody understands your company better than the people who work there. Crowdsourcing doesn’t have to be external at first, and trying it internally will help you refine your process and address any objections the executive suite might have.

Crowdsourcing pays big dividends if everyone signs off.

Know The Law

To be fair, it’s reasonable to ask what the legal repercussions are of having outsiders refine your product, and there are risks. However, those risks are easy to compensate for if you know they’re on the table, and you can respond by offering to keep it relatively small, with just a few hundred participants and a narrow focus. That will limit legal liability and offer a good internal test case, and you can build from there.

Have A Benefit For The Crowd

What’s in it for the crowd? This is another question worth asking, and that you’ll need an answer for. Crowdsourcing campaigns only work when there’s benefit for both the company doing the crowdsourcing and the crowd itself. LEGO, for example, crowdsources ideas for new designs from its fans, but for fans, the benefit is that they get to tell the company exactly what they want out of the product they love. When you’re asked what the benefit would be for the crowd, have an answer ready, and be ready to talk about it.

The key with internal resistance is to have a clear response to objections and realize this will be a marathon, not a sprint. Crowdsourcing can be a difficult concept to wrap your mind around, but the rewards are worth it. If you’d like more ways to make your case, get the Innovation Starter Kit.

Environmental, Social, and Governance Strategy in the Workplace

Environmental, Social, and Governance StrategyAs if corporate managers didn’t have enough to worry about, they must now  consider a new business challenge: investors are increasingly looking towards non-financial data to determine your company’s risk.

Environmental, social and governance strategy (ESG) refers to the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company or business. The overall market for ESG investments has swelled to $8.7 trillion in U.S. assets under management last year, up 33% since 2014, according to the U.S. SIF Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

In the past, a small class of investors would utilize ESG data through a screening process, mainly to filter out certain investments from an ethical perspective (tobacco, gambling, human rights violations, etc).

But today, a growing number of institutional (think: pension funds) and activist investors are linking ESG data with financial performance to make investment decisions. “This is a way of reducing risk,” Clifton S. Robbins, CEO of Blue Harbour Group LP said in an interview. “If we can add one more lens to look through that helps us determine risk, that’s fantastic.”

This shift in how investors are determining your company’s investment risk is being met with new analytical tools to make access to ESG data easier than ever before. Just this week, the Wall Street Journal announced State Street Corp.’s new tool to gauge environmental, and other social risks. “We have the root data, everything about the company itself,” said Lou Maiuri, head of State Street’s analytics and markets businesses. “We sit on 12% to 15% of the world’s assets.”

And it’s not just big investors – the little ones are paying attention as well. The relative proportion socially responsible investments made by individuals in Canada, Europe and the United States increased from 13% in 2014 to 26% at the start of 2016, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance’s newly released Investment Review.

As a manager, how are you thinking about these issues? Is this a challenge for you? I’d love to hear from you for a future blog post. In exchange, I will send a copy of Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Thank You for Being Late” to the first five people who respond.

In the meantime, here are three things you can do today to get a jump start:

    1. Ask your employees what they care about. This is one of the first steps to developing a purpose-driven workplace. Focusing on purpose rather than profits builds business confidence and drives investment. Additionally, 73% of employees who say they work for a purpose-driven company are engaged, whereas only 23% of employees are engaged at companies that are not purpose driven.
    2. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with employees on social issues. The old adage of telling employees to leave personal issues at home is over. Four out of 10 working Americans say they take care of personal or family needs during work and about a quarter report that they regularly bring work home (26%), work during vacations (25%) and allow work to interrupt time with family and friends (25%). These were among the findings of a survey by APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.
    3. Ask the public for solutions to your sustainability challenges. Many leaders are afraid to openly discuss their company’s negative impact on the environment at the risk of gaining bad publicity. IdeaBuzz is a turn-key solution for hosting a low profile contest to an existing crowd of problem solvers to discover new solutions. Additionally, sustainability ideation has been proven to increase overall innovation performance and competitive advantage.

Today’s corporate managers must now consider both financial and non-financial (ESG) factors when evaluating company performance and setting strategic goals. “When we call a CEO we are going to be asking about this,” Mr. Robbins said. “We’re going to hold you accountable to what we’ve talked about.”

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This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Josh Folk, VP of Global Sales at IdeaScale

Lessons Learned About Innovation Communications from the City of Calgary

calgary-featureIf you’ve been following IdeaScale’s Innovation Management Awards, you know that this year saw some really thrilling innovation come from some unexpected places. In fact, government is sometimes seen as one of the least innovative industries, but some of our best stories this year came from the government. In this case, the City of Calgary was a leader in generating engagement with their innovation program. But how did they do it? In short, they used multiple channels to communicate with their audience, they empowered their moderators to keep the conversation going, and ideas were constantly being trafficked.

But first a little about their program: myCityInnovation is an internal program which is part of the broader City of Calgary innovation program ‘Civic Innovation YYC.’ myCityInnovation initially invited the City’s 12,000 “wired” employees to share, collaborate, and test new ideas for improving City services.

Well, when myCityInnovation launched in May of 2016, Calgary didn’t just send out an email blast and call it good. They launched a full internal multi-channel marketing strategy. This included nine different channels which included in-person events, meetings, blog posts, newsletters, social media, print media, video, website advertising, on top of the tried and true email.

But that was just to invite people to participate. After members started participating, Calgary continued the conversation by helping their moderators respond to ideas. This meant that advisors and leaders were encouraged to participate, add comments, and provide feedback. In this way, all ideators knew that their ideas were valued.

Finally, ideas were intentionally moved on a “semi-regular” basis from Ideate to Assessment with the goal of establishing a predictable rhythm for the community. This is perhaps the most important engagement tactic you can use: responsiveness. If participants see that real ideas can gain traction (even if they’re not their own) they will develop faith in the program and employee satisfaction increases.

To learn more about the City of Calgary and their myCityInnovation program, download their case study. 

Best Practices for Asking for Employee Ideas


Creativity should be rewarded, but you need to ask for it.

Can an employee ever offer you the unvarnished truth? Many of us would like to say yes, but stop and think back to the jobs you held before you took a leadership role. If your boss had asked for the full-on truth, would you have given it to them? At the same time, though, your employees are often your best source for the necessary innovation you need to drive your business forward. So implement these best practices for encouraging honesty and openness.

Set the Tone

It really starts with leadership. Just like employees are reluctant to be honest about the tough questions with their bosses, leaders can sometimes find themselves wanting to soften the truth. Really, that’s just human nature, especially with tough news.

So, practice the golden rule: Treat your employees the way you want them to treat you. Setting that tone will ensure they offer you their true opinion, instead of holding back.

Give Them Ways to Communicate

Another roadblock is that even if you’ve got a positive idea or contribution, it can be hard for some of us to put ourselves out there. So, work out ways employees can communicate, and make sure it’s voluntary both in submitting and in identifying themselves. Some people simply don’t enjoy a spotlight, or their idea might be a positive for them but a seeming negative for others, so anonymity is important. A simple suggestion box, an open door policy, brainstorming meetings, and even just making it clear that if they need to talk to you, you’ll find the time to make it happen will give your employees the chance to shine.


How will your employees surprise you?

Give Them Latitude

Not every idea is going to work for your business, specifically. Even truly great ideas sometimes just don’t fit with a certain company or industry, for some reason. And that can be discouraging, if you let it be, so make sure it isn’t. Make it clear that there’s no such thing as a bad idea, just an idea whose time hasn’t come yet, and make a point of thanking people who step up, no matter how their ideas shake out. If employees understand that what matters is that they have something to offer, not that their ideas must be brilliant, they’re more likely to offer you more innovation.

Reward Creativity, Personally

Another key is acknowledging creativity personally. Something as simple as coming by somebody’s desk and thanking them in person, giving them a shout out at the start of a company meeting, or otherwise personally acknowledging they helped out can be a huge boost to any employee. Part of the advantage of innovation is your employee being able to point to something, whether it’s an enormous breakthrough or just something that shaves a few hours off a dull task, and say “I built that.”

Innovation is the lifeblood of any company. A company without innovation is one that will either begin to fade in importance or be shaken up enormously by a sudden change. However, if you work with your employees, you’ll soon find they’re your greatest resource for innovation. To get started, contact us.

Improving Workforce Engagement in Your Purpose-Driven Workplace

improving-workforce-engagement-in-your-purpose-driven-workplaceIt’s clear that consumers care about quality and price when purchasing products and services. However, did you know that company reputation and social responsibility, rank immediately after those two factors? And, when it comes to workforce engagement, exceptional employees care about work that has a positive impact on society.

As a business, you need to satisfy both the consumer and employee side of the equation if you want your shareholders to be happy. Businesses are beginning to realize that doing good is not only the right thing, but it makes good business sense for the company. This realization is what’s driving the trend towards a purpose-driven workplace.

What is a Purpose-Driven Workplace?

A purpose-driven workplace infuses purpose into all that it does. It pursues purpose as well as profitability. This doesn’t mean that your company’s mission focuses 100% on saving the world. Many times, it’s simply about creating a connection between the work that’s done in your organization and a larger purpose. Then, helping employees see that connection.

When you create a purpose driven workplace, you provide your employees with a way to:

  • Make a positive impact on others and on the community around them
  • Connect with others and build meaningful relationships at work
  • Achieve continued personal and professional growth

When you provide employees with these opportunities, they’ll feel like their work matters and they’ll know that they are making a difference. Even more, they will grow and learn within your organization, helping you create a deep well of talent for promotions over time.

Why a Purpose-Driven Workplace is Important

Beyond feeling and doing good, the importance of purpose for any organization is startling. A survey by Deloitte showed that 73% of employees who say they work for a purpose-driven company are engaged, whereas only 23% of employees are engaged at companies that are not purpose driven. Clearly, having a purpose-driven workplace is a vital part of keeping employees engaged and productive.

Improving Workforce Engagement

There are many ways to improve engagement by creating a purpose-driven workplace. These ideas are just a starting point. Ask your team to see what else they can come up with:

  • Discuss the impact that your product or service makes to the end user
  • Share positive customer stories
  • Give back to the community in volunteer hours as well as with funds, products and services
  • Provide project opportunities that highlight purpose
  • Give employees time to work on projects that are meaningful to them
  • Consider realigning employees to emphasize strengths and interests
  • Solicit opinions and feedback to find out how your employees connect purpose to work
  • Implement incentives or programs that help connect the dots between work and purpose
  • Systematize and automate where possible to help you stay organized, maximize resources, and save time

Creating a purpose-driven workplace doesn’t have to be expensive. Simple, consistent communication that happens on the new employee orientation day and extends into the daily, weekly and monthly activities of your workforce may be just the thing you need to create an engaged workforce.

Whatever you decide, the purpose-driven workplace is here to stay. You need a plan to sustain workforce engagement long-term. Our latest whitepaper shares tips and strategies that others are using to get there. Download your copy of The Purpose-Driven Workforce today.

Five Tips for Cultivating Creative Thinking on Your Team


Creativity is the great untapped resource on any team.

How do you bring out the creativity of your team? It’s one of the harder questions to answer in innovation management, but it doesn’t have to be. With some smart thinking and careful decisions, you can bring out the best in your team.

Be Open

Creativity is encouraged, or discouraged, by leadership. In some cases, company leaders have discovered they’ve got brilliantly innovative employees with smart ideas, but nobody bothers to ask them what they think, and they’re not willing to come forward at risk of looking foolish. Set up channels of communication so employees can talk to you and know that they’re being heard, and make sure they follow your example by talking with customers and others their work touches. With that, you’ll see the gates open for ideation.

Encourage Cross Competencies

One of the toughest problems with creativity is that it can be difficult to get perspective outside the daily grind. If one team is customer-facing and the other is handling the back end, they may not understand each others’ challenges. Make sure that every team that “touches” each other has cross competencies and communicates so they can see their work from a different perspective.

Promote Accountability

Creativity can lead to explosive success, or it can fall flat on its face. It’s a difficult call to make because even brilliant ideas can be hamstrung by unexpected factors. Putting yourself out there, let’s not forget, is a gamble not just at work, but with your sense of self. If people think their careers are on the line or think they won’t get credit, they won’t bother with innovation. So, set standards to reward success and to limit the pain of failure. Innovators should get proper credit for their ideas, and if an idea doesn’t work, the blame game should be strictly off-limits; instead, set the standard that the entire team parses what went wrong and applies that to the next idea.


All a great idea needs is a spark.

Create Incubators

It’s easy for an established business to go on “autopilot.” If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment and innovate. Creating small pilot projects and other incubators in your most established businesses will allow you to foster innovation and give your team room to toy with ideas. If one doesn’t work, you can set it aside as a learning opportunity and try the next one. When employees understand that creativity is low risk and high reward, you’ll see far more of it.

Discourage Complacency

Humility is an important aspect of creativity, and there’s no hubris greater in business than deciding your place as an industry leader is assured. Again and again in business history, from the American auto industry to the current tech industry, you see companies assume nothing could knock from their perches, only to watch them learn the hard way that isn’t true. So, always ask “If we’re the best, how can we be better?” It’s the only question, long term, that truly matters in any business.

If you’re ready to learn about innovation management, take the first step. Contact us.

Expert Interview Series: Jennifer Riggins of Happy Melly On Growing Your Brand Using Collaboration And Innovation

Expert Interview Header (91)

Jennifer Riggins is the marketeer at Happy Melly, a virtual global business network dedicated to making happiness at work the new norm.

Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Happy Melly is set up with the belief that happier employees are more productive, better able to achieve goals and be successful. To start, how does the happiness of each component of a team contribute to the whole working effectively?

Don’t love the word “component” kicking off the first question – we aren’t talking about Ford’s pieces on an assembly line that have mostly been replaced by robots, we’re talking about human beings, usually working in knowledge and creative-based jobs, albeit toward a common goal.

Happy workers aren’t just more productive, but they are more loyal to team and business, more innovative in an environment that lets them feel safe to experiment and risk failure, and they are more collaborative. Bringing a group of these happy individuals together toward a common goal makes them more likely to achieve or surpass those goals.

Happy Melly also allies with social entrepreneurs, to increase the cooperative impact, as well as giving value, attention, and credibility to each component of a partnership. To start, can you talk a bit about what you mean by social entrepreneurs? How do you decide on who you’re going to work with?

A social entrepreneur is anyone who works toward affecting social change, solving problems – macro and micro – and making a difference in at least one life. One doesn’t have to own her or his own business – it’s anyone who wants to affect this change and disrupt and improve, even within the confines of a large corporation.

Anyone is welcome to join Happy Melly as a supporter – all we ask for is a small annual fee based on the resident country’s income. For a Happy Melly funder, which involves a much more significant financial and time commitment, we do have requirements, which are evaluated by current funders. Funders come from businesses that have a clearly defines purpose that aligns with Happy Melly’s own vision of happiness at work, and that looks to expand their products or services globally and transparently. Of course, these funders want to become an active part of invigorating our growing community with experiments and feedback.
How can creative collaboration help “value, attention, and credibility” to the parts of a partnership? What have been some particularly successful collaborations you’ve seen or taken part in?

I can’t talk too much about collaboration among supporters – all we know is that 55 percent of conversations within our more than 600-person Slack community happen in private message which we think implies a lot of collaboration. In the shared Slack channels, we also see a core group of members constantly openly sharing experiments and offering feedback. One supporter collaboration that has come out of our community is the Agile Uprising which looks to build a community around the agile mindset and includes four Happy Melly members as founders.

One area where we see truly visible collaboration is among our Funders. This much smaller group acts as a sort of startup incubator. With a similar general goal of increasing happiness at work, there is a lot of support and overlap, with Lisette’s Collaboration Superpowers for remote working, Jurgen’s fourth book Managing for Happiness and the Management 3.0 brand, Jason’s Lean Change Management book and workshops, and Learning 3.0’s books and workshops, among our long-term funders, each bouncing ideas off each other and sharing experiences. And then the customers of these brands are then able to pick and choose from the array of the solutions that work for them.

One area where I’ve seen the most successful collaboration among Funders is Sergey. I’ve seen him spending the last couple years traveling the world, bouncing ideas off of members, until he found a void in workshop management software. Because of this, he was able to build his own company Workshop Butler which solves this problem and three of the other funders were some of its first customers, providing candid feedback in return for helping to steer the product roadmap.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once joked, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” Can you talk about how collaboration can help test an idea, and how it can help make an idea superior to the first iteration?

At Happy Melly, we’re first and foremost about feedback – and certainly it’s true that two heads are better than one. Most of our interaction is in a massive Slack community with more than 100 topic-related channels, ranging from agile and lean change to remote working to more personal ones like family, vulnerability and general pursuits of happiness. Members usually choose a channel where they’ve gained confidence with the members to talk about obstacles they are meeting at work, broach their first idea of how to overcome them, and to ask for advice. This sort of working out loud allows ideas to mature, experiments to go on, and then other feedback cycles to continue as updates are shared.

We also hold Weekly Happiness Challenges, which has one or two members leading an experiment and discussion around a specific topic a week. They can be smaller challenges that run throughout the week, like on remote working or personal branding, or they can be big undertakings that can take longer than a week, like abstaining from negativity on social media or gratitude journaling.

Happy Melly have a bunch of thought and workplace experiments listed on your website, regarding productivity, collaboration, and workplace happiness. What are one or two experiments someone might try to start steering their workplace towards a more collaborative environment?

One run by Agile Coach and Supporter Josh Briggs. He challenged us to be vulnerable via the following experimental options:

    • Before heading into the office or a meeting, encourage yourself to let go of worrying about what others think of you and to share one genuine thought you have.
    • When someone ask you how you are doing, tell them how you are actually doing. Do not respond with the canned, “I’m fine and you?”
    • When you need help, let someone know you’re struggling and ask for it.

Trust and vulnerability are intrinsically linked – you can’t build trust with your teammates until you are vulnerable yourself. I think this is why Josh’s experimental week just this December sparked the most discussion we’ve ever had on our Slack community that continues today.

How can collaboration help workers feel more engaged, and more a part of a company and a community? What difference can that make, both for the employees and the company?

Working in silos is proven to be unsuccessful. If we are just cogs in a chain, sure it may work, but if you want to create a productive environment that’s constantly innovating and improving, we have to work together. Collaborating toward a common goal does make us feel more engaged and a part of something bigger than ourselves. As talked about before, it makes us feel more likely to experiment. Also only 12 percent of people change jobs because of money – while 80 or so percent of HR reps believe that’s the reason – that means creating a sense of loyalty through collaboration is key to your company’s growth and success.

Collaboration offers many different viewpoints from lots of different people. This can offer unique insight into what people really need and want. Can you talk about how crowdsourcing can be a source of ideas for future projects?

For sure crowdsourcing ideas is valuable. Many of our members are coaches and team leaders, so they will present a challenge and ‘idea-source’ solutions, which then other members will also test out. And on a team, we are more and more moving away from the top-down mandate of the Waterfall method of massive project management.

Instead, everyone is responsible for her or his smaller piece, which contributes to the whole. Similarly, everyone can express ideas and opinions, which can then be either used at the moment or put on ice for future experimentation. As organizations become increasingly collaborative and flat, ‘idea-sourcing’ becomes revenue driving.

Likewise, how can having a concrete goal help a company become extra streamlined and efficient? What could be some results of this new efficiency?

Concrete goals and idea-sourcing aren’t mutually exclusive. A company can and should have goals that creates a sense of unity and transparency, but then crowdsourcing ideas can be used to help achieve that goal. But certainly goals don’t make companies more streamlined and efficient – people and processes do. However, offering attainable shared goals is one way of motivating people to work harder.

Even if a company doesn’t already have a huge customer base, there’s still a lot of ways to crowdsource ideas and inspiration. Do you ever monitor social media and the web to keep a finger on the pulse? What are some methods a company might use social media or automated alerts to monitor new industries or trends?

Sure, we use tools like Google Analytics and Hootsuite to monitor mentions of our brand. And certainly social media is a great way to crowdsource ideas for blogposts and experiments. And of course drawing on real life contemporary events via the news for examples of old school versus innovative companies always gives us things to talk about within our community.

But if you have a small customer base, you need to just be out there – online and in person – to find out who your perspective customers are and asking them what problems they are looking to solve. Social media is just one place you can ask these business-saving questions.

Crowdsourcing and collaboration is a great way to spread the word on a brand, without being pushy or spending tons of money on questionable advertising. How can a great crowdsourcing campaign help get the name out there, even more so than traditional advertising or marketing? And what are some of the benefits of the philanthropic nature of spreading the word via doing good deeds?

First, it’s about creating valuable content that makes want to share it – it’s the basis of social media success. And then it’s about making the ask – having the guts to say we need something and we were wondering if you would share it. Of course, that means prioritizing sharing first other people’s work before you start asking them.

Want to connect and collaborate with you workforce? Start your own IdeaScale community today!

Transforming workplace culture with your innovation management program

workplace well-being

Defining and achieving concrete improvements in organizational culture and employee performance is a challenge for organizations of all types. This is an acute reality when an organization is facing a clear mandate or opportunity for this type of change.

Even when a solution, tool or methodology is introduced, it will likely face some internal resistance and shoulder heavy expectations. Those in charge of managing this change are often pushed to justify their efforts and expenditures in a fashion that doesn’t align with the type of gains that are being sought.

The challenge is that so-called “soft” outcomes have indirect paths onto the balance sheet and can be difficult to articulate in a strategy or in terms of ROI potential. Not being quantitative doesn’t mean however, that there aren’t theoretically rigorous approaches to creating positive outcomes.

In fact, the rest of this post should help you both better articulate what it is you’re trying to achieve (workplace well-being) and introduce empirically validated theories for you to use when developing a rigorous approach towards achieving these goals with an Innovation Management program.

Workplace Well-beingwhat we’re striving for

workplace well-beingAt a high-level, what we’re talking about is building organizations where employees are productive, personally fulfilled and able to respond adaptively to the dynamic work environment of a 21st century organization. Often this set of characteristics is referred to as “organizational and employee well-being” and is considered “a fundamental element of successful organizations.” It’s manifestations are numerous and include high performing teams, reduced turnover, avoidance of burnout, higher rates of learning and professional development, accelerated knowledge sharing, reduced risk-aversion among middle management and increased organizational citizenship.

While well-being is clearly important, it is also a subjective status and complex concept. For example, Gallup has broken it down into five essential elements and their research is useful for thinking about various aspects of your organization at this stage.

Achieving Workplace Well-being with Innovation Management

When it comes to Innovation Management, there are two key concepts, “Autonomy Support” and “Job Crafting” that you can think of as building blocks of workplace well-being. They have been developed through empirical research and are supported by our experience here at IdeaScale.

Building Autonomy Supporting Environments

workplace well-beingAutonomy support refers to the empathetic and empowering context cultivated by acknowledging and understanding employee perspectives. When achieved it “provides employees with opportunities for volition over what they do and how they go about it, encouraging employee initiative, and remaining open to new experiences.” (link)

In one of the defining studies on the subject, Moreau and Mageau conducted research on almost 600 health professionals in 2011 and found that “perceived autonomy support predicts health professionals’ work satisfaction and psychological health.

It’s not hard to see how an Innovation Management program would help manifest an autonomy supporting environment. By simply introducing this type of program, you’re moving away from a more controlling context towards one that has been proven to increase autonomous motivation and self-determination.

However, there’s far more to gain by making autonomy support a specific objective of your innovation management program and a variety of ways you might do this. For example, you might approach it very directly, by launching a campaign that solicits ideas for how to create a more autonomy supporting environment. Also, when designing the architecture of your program, it’s important pay close and careful attention to how and by whom the ideas are reviewed, improved and selected. Additionally, focus on your capacity to implement top ideas that involve the idea submitters and contributors in the manifestation of their solutions.

Perhaps the most important way in which innovation management can drive the creation of an autonomy supportive context is through the involvement of peers. The health professional study mentioned above found that the role of peers in creating autonomy support to be equal in importance to the contributions of managers. It follows then that you should invest in engagement strategies that not only produce ideas but also drive wide and supportive engagement through voting, commenting and other team-building and refinement methods.

Job Crafting

workplace well-beingIn addition to creating autonomy supporting workplaces, innovation management programs–when fully integrated into an organization–can help employees shape the very nature of their work. This process is referred to as “Job Crafting”.

In more precise terms: “Job crafting… is a method by which employees might create a better fit between themselves and the demands of their jobs.” Through this process “employees can essentially reshape their job such that it becomes more closely aligned with their motivations for work, as well as their individual skills and preferences…”  and in so doing, “cultivate a personal sense of efficacy for meeting [the] demands of their job.

While it’s a nice-sounding idea, “A growing body of research has found that job crafting enables individuals to strike an equilibrium between the demands of their jobs and the personal resources they have to manage them… which helps buffer against stress and increases engagement.” (link)

Here again, there are many ways in which you can go beyond the basic benefits that the implicit job-crafting nature of an innovation management program provide by using job crafting as a objective to develop your program. Similar to Autonomy Support, you can approach it directly by having department managers run campaigns to facilitate specific job crafting processes as described in this paper, or in the very well done Job Crafting Exercise put together by the brilliant folks at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations.

You might also consider simply integrating innovation management processes into more granular team operations with short ideation sprints rather than large organization or division-wide campaigns. With these smaller engagements, be sure to utilize functions where employees can help shape the parameters of their upcoming projects like IdeaScale’s “fund” function where employees can allocate tokens or hours to an idea they support.

Conclusion

While workplace well-being is a complex and somewhat nebulous objective, our hope is that the concepts of Autonomy Support and Job Crafting can can empower you to better define and articulate the qualitative impacts of implementing and nurturing an innovation management program. If you’re interested in diving deeper into what this might look like at your organization, shoot me an email at [email protected] or tweet @devinmc.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Devin McIntire, Senior Innovation Technology Adviser at IdeaScale.