Getting ready to unveil your new innovation strategy? Here are six things your employees will want to know. Are you prepared to answer their questions?
1. Is this innovation push just for this quarter or this year?
Your employees have been through the flavor-of-the-month strategy. Probably not at your company, but somewhere they worked before, no doubt. They know innovation strategies come and go. They will want to know whether your innovation strategy is here to stay. Demonstrating that it is will take both words and lots of actions.
2. How innovative do you want us to be?
The easy answer is to say you are looking for big ideas. Who doesn’t love big ideas? The problem: Asking for big ideas rarely leads to big ideas. Instead, give your team creative-thinking questions appropriately sized to the innovation you are seeking. Then let them go to town answering the questions.
3. What are your expectations or limits?
I know, I know. You want your employees to start with a clean sheet of paper as they start imagining the future. Be honest, though. You’ve never given them free rein before to innovate. Do everyone a favor. Share goals, objectives and strategies for where you want to direct your innovation strategy. You’ll all be more successful. Pinky swear.
4. What are you going to do with our ideas?
If you announce you want everyone to innovate, you need to have thought up front about how you are actually going to review and process the ideas your employees share. Have you figured that out? We didn’t think so. Identify the process, then make your big innovation strategy announcement.
5. Will I get into trouble if I break something?
Your employees are concerned about getting into trouble. As much as you say you want disruptive innovation, they have doubts. Heck, we were talking with a new CEO recently. His board told him to be both innovative and to not mess anything up with the organization. He’s running the show and struggling to find the right balance. You can imagine how someone with less standing in the organization struggles. Stake out a penalty-free space in which your team can experiment and break things.
6. Who owns my idea if it turns into something successful?
I hate all the legal mumbo jumbo. But innovation is all fun until somebody’s idea starts generating lots of money, and you have to settle up equitably. Let your team know the rules. Who owns what? How much does everyone get paid for an idea that proves successful? It can seem premature to consider this while still figuring out how an electronic idea box works. Set the rules before you ask people to play the innovation strategy game.
There Is Work to Do
We’re not saying everything requires an immediate answer. Being ready to tackle these questions at the start, however, is important to creating an innovation strategy that works.