Making Time to Innovate vs. Innovation Day
Used a Post-it Note lately? Reading from your Gmail account(s)? Well, surprise, you’ve been the beneficiary of a corporate innovation program that gives employees time to be creative — and, while they’re at it, sometimes invent products that go on to become wildly popular. Sounds fun, right?
What’s become sort of an urban legend of the corporate world, Post-It’s were invented (though somewhat accidentally) during the inventor’s “innovation time.” The 3M company encouraged 15% of its employees’ time to innovation, which led to the creation of the now-ubiquitous yellow sticky note (FYI: Post-it® Notes are now available in more than 150 countries. Collectively, there are more than 4,000 Post-it® Products.)
And what about Gmail? That huge bit of innovation was the result of Google’s well known – and often well replicated – “20% time,” which gives employees a day a week to follow their passions. (Gmail
and Google Reader were born from employees ‘innovating’ on their 20 percent time.)
For the last several years, in an effort to boost internal innovation, Adobe has given $1,000 to any of its employees who want to pursue their own side projects. Under the program, known as Kickbox
, workers have only to raise their hand and they are given customized red boxes, each of which includes a prepaid credit card and other tools designed to help turn an idea into a shippable product.
And last year, PayPal hosted ‘Battle Hacks’
in 14 cities around the world, calling on the most talented developers to assemble teams and work for 24 hours to create something magical that incorporates the PayPal API and solves a local problem.
We applaud these proactive efforts to encourage innovation. Because there are a lot of very cool ideas floating around in people’s heads, but it’s hard to bring them into fruition. That’s what these innovation programs can help do. Of course, building a workplace where there is a constant exchange of ideas involves finding the right formula for your company and culture. You can’t force creativity, but the right setting will put your team in the right frame of mind to find imaginative solutions. Unfortunately, creating dedicated time is really important and often the most challenging. The reality is that it’s tough to scale innovation when the only time to innovate is on nights and weekends.
The solution? Selfishly, we’re pretty proud of our own innovation, PoPinNow, and how it can absolutely transform a traditional brainstorming session into something collaborative, efficient and highly actionable. Tap the creativity and personal experiences of everyone towards a common goal of innovation. Even if your team comes up with ideas you had already thought of, the fact that these ideas are validated by the team and believed to be sourced by them would only improve buy-in and engagement when that critical time for execution comes around.