Net Result, Net Reward: Engineering Sustainability

“Engineering Innovation” from The Henry Samueli School of Engineering

 

How does your company engineer sustainability?

  1. Do you track new product sales objectives?
  2. Is your NPD pipeline as robust as you’d like it to be?
  3. Do you reward people who contribute good ideas to your organization?
  4. Do you have a reward system in place for creativity?
  5. Do you recognize staff for creativity and accomplishments in your NPD?

When all is said and done, innovation is about ROI derived from the transformation of ideas into money. Net Result and Reward is about motivating your people with the right incentives and generating workplace engagement. Once you have sorted your campaign logistics and established a solid marketing plan, you should focus on incentives for employees.  Incentives play an important role in motivating employees to create short term excitement as well as engineering a long-term, sustained innovation culture.

 Why do innovation efforts fail? Many of the key reasons for derailed innovation programs tie back to culture, and to people related issues.

According to James Pasmantier in an article named incentives for innovation, generating workplace engagement can be a challenge. He cites top business thinker Gary Hamel in a Towers Perrin study that discovered only one-fifth of employees are truly engaged in their work—meaning they’re fully invested and would “go the extra mile” for their employer. The rest ranged from disengaged (38%) to indifferent (41%). This feeling of detachment, and especially the sense of not having a voice in the company, is also a large factor in why employees leave their jobs.

When interviewed for Robert’s Rules of Innovation, Harlan F. Weisman MD, chief science and tech officer (Medical Devices & Diagnostics) for Johnson & Johnson said, “Today it’s innovate or die. Dr. Weisman is an expert at creating an environment for innovation, within which people can flourish. I fully agree when he says, “A single inventor, alone, can’t do it. Sometimes you stop and say, ‘maybe it’s just easier to come up with the big idea myself.’ I’m here to tell you, it’s not.”  Give your NPD team incentive to produce innovative ideas, and champion a culture of innovation where it’s not just ok to take risks, but rather, where it’s critical.

Rewards and recognition systems for a successful New Product Development Process  can take many forms, but all members of the staff need to be rewarded, and motivation isn’t always about money, and it isn’t always a cause/reaction equation.

Rewards can be monetary such as a bonus percentage based on new product sales – often the key stakeholders get a product launch reward or a percentage of sales from new products. They can also be non-monetary such as peer acknowledgments, awards, and even office perks. Web retailer Zappos, known for their “WOW” culture of service and innovation, offers employee perks like free lunch, free coffee drinks made by baristas, and 100%-paid medical, dental, and vision plans. Zappos even has a nap room at its headquarters in Henderson, Nevada.

People have more than one motivating force, which is important to understand in order to achieve optimal performance. Financial rewards are always nice, but for some creative folks, recognition may be an even more powerful driver. When considering financial rewards, keep in they could prevent building a culture of innovation by promoting participation driven by personal gain.

As Mr. Pasmantier has said, “By thinking outside the box and creatively tapping the spirit of co-creation and collaboration, non-financial rewards can have a positive impact on sustaining participation from employees in a variety of different internal innovation campaigns.”

 Non-financial rewards can:

  • Raise the commitment level of your employees
  • Enhance morale and motivate future performance
  • Generate organization-wide “good-vibes”
  • Reinforce ideal outcomes
  • Create a powerful link between strategy and innovation outcomes

The fruit of your team’s labor benefits all. Net reward, Net Profit.

Innovation culture, once started, creates passion that begets success. However, like any culture, this requires innovation management to actively drive these elements. When considering incentives for sustainable effort; focus on consistency, communication, and personalization. Remember, it’s important to reward effort, not only success.

For consistency, establish a guideline for desired performance to help keep recognition consistent. Create regular activities to help build a sense of purpose within your team. This includes updates, monthly meetings, and weekly themed brainstorming sessions. Create structure for organizational contributors by creating a method for evaluating ideas, and a process for allowing individual ideators access to designer time.

It is important to be clear for what, and why your employees are being recognized. Communication is key, not only to make it clear that you are paying attention, but also to open a dialogue between you and your team.  Share success stories that provide examples of great teamwork and superior outcomes. Be sure your communication is in a format that can be circulated, digested, and appreciated organization-wide. Develop imagery and symbols to help bring your incentive program to life. Include internal innovation awards, patent recognition badges and innovator lunches.

The innovation culture you create will be unique to your business. Identify and establish where key positions need to be created or structured to enable organic growth of innovation, and understand your employees when creating incentive programs. Realize that different employees may want different recognition rewards. Ideas for non-financial rewards can range from lunch with the CEO, to employee assignment to develop and implement the idea, days off or workplace perks (e.g. premium parking spots, etc.).

To get results in Innovation, a structured, repeatable process is essential. Look to all imperatives of Robert’s Rules of Innovation: I.N.N.O.V.A.T.I.O.N

  • Inspire
  • No Risk, No Innovation
  • New Product Development Process
  • Ownership
  • Value Creation
  • Accountability
  • Training and Coaching
  • Idea Management
  • Observe and Measure
  • New Result Net Reward

These rules of order are meant to be applied regularly as part of a sustainable growth strategy. All these parameters should be continually utilized – and not just when sales or ideas are low – to achieve successful, lasting innovation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Click on each letter of INNOVATION (below) to explore the imperatives...