It’s Not a One Man Show Anymore

All right, I’m officially calling it. If innovation at the enterprise level is truly going to flourish, the age of the one-man show with the CEO as the only star is over. History! Kaput!

I’ve spent the past week looking at company improvement ideas that were randomly sourced from the unlikely corners of the employee pool. Just think about this new commitment to enterprise-wide innovation. At Pitney Bowes, one of the command decisions made by the CEO in 2008 was to “include the entire workforce in innovative thinking around product, service, process and customer experience to generate organic growth.” The company launched an internal service called IdeaNet. According to Jeff Pierce, Innovation Architect at Pitney Bowes, “As of 2012, IdeaNet has been engaging employees in innovation for over three years. We have collected over 5000 ideas. Over 1000 of them have helped us realize significant results from new revenue, process improvements, and increased customer satisfaction.”

When AT&T introduced Toggle, the team revealed that the idea actually surfaced from an employee through their crowdsourcing engine TIP (The Innovation Pipeline). The idea was refined from there with several collaborative teams that actually produced the final product and it’s an idea that is “absolutely of interest to enterprises” according to articles covering the announcement. Score one for employee idea management!

Or there’s Appleton Papers (a company the produces the soon-to-be-obsolete: carbonless paper) that has reached out to their entire employee base company wide for ideas for their future. According to this article, Dennis Hultgren, Appleton’s VP says “In one year we’ve gotten over 700 new product ideas from our 2,500 employees. [including a digital paper product launched in Germany] What we’ve learned is that it’s important to bring everybody in on [the search].”

The thing is it’s good news – even for CEOs. Looking to one person for a single source of inspiration and direction is always stressful and not always practical. A good CEO will know how to share that responsibility meaningfully.

What do you think about employee-centered innovation? How is crowdsourcing changing the face of network intelligence?

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