How Can we Improve Creativity and Innovation Capabilities?

Get some hands on advice from this week’s expert Sven Andrén, the architect behind the Idea Management program at the Swedish MNC TetraPak. What is his take on the best way to reward employees that come up with ideas? How can we involve more employees in our idea generation? And is there a value of using different idea generation techniques or is the traditional “brainstorming technique” sufficient? Where can I find more idea generation techniques?

What is the best way to reward employees that come up with ideas?

I believe that rewarding people for coming up with great ideas should be one element of building an innovative culture within your company. There can be two types of rewards: monetary or non-monetary. Monetary, well yes that says it all, giving people money for ideas that they come up with. Unfortunately there are many studies done saying that only monetary rewards will not improve either idea quality or quantity.
Non-monetary rewards are much more interesting to use and in my view more effective. You can differentiate between quantity and quality. Small rewards for each submitted ideas like collecting points to be used in the companies gift shop, movie ticket or why not collect hours for “free time” to be used for exploring ideas, this can be really effective!

For rewarding the value of the idea (idea quality), you can have a monthly idea competition. Announcing the winner at the next company/department meeting, handing over flower or other official rewards has a fantastic impact on the person or team motivation. A classic one is that the winner can use the manager’s parking space at work for a month.

Use your own creativity to find fun and inspiring rewards. In general try to make the rewards as visible as possible but avoid monetary rewards for ideas.

How can we involve more employees in our idea generation?

One simple answer to this is to ask them! One way of doing this is to run idea campaigns on a specific need or problem. Announce the need on the intranet and/or on employees meetings and run the campaign for a couple of weeks. Feedback of the results and rewards to the most valuable ideas will trigger interest and motivation.

Is there a value of using different idea generation techniques or is the traditional “brainstorming technique” sufficient?

Absolutely, there is great value of using different idea generation techniques. You have to choose the best technique for the given need or problem you are trying to solve. The whole idea of the idea generation is to generate as many ideas as possible. And using the wrong method will not stimulate the brain to come up with many, if any ideas.
Brains are different, so use more than one technique so that all brains have a chance to get stimulated. “One method fits everything” does not work here and the traditional brainstorming technique is actually not very effective in my view. Try a couple of new techniques and learn which works for what type of problem. You can find hundred of different techniques on the Internet or contact a consultant that can help you get started.

We need more idea generation techniques –  where can I find these?

Internet is as usual a good source of information. You can find hundreds of different methods here. Many of them are variants of the same theme which means if you have learnt a couple of them you can quickly use other similar ones.

Remember, it is the need or problem that defines which techniques you should be using so you might have to “twist” the technique slightly to make it work. Test and try before you run it in your team.

About the expert

Sven Andrén is driving the Idea Management program within the Swedish MNC Tetra Pak with the goal of improving creativity and innovation capabilities. This program has been launched throughout the whole Tetra Pak organization and also to customers and suppliers throughout the world. Sven graduated 1976 (MSc, Lund’s Technical University, Sweden) and has now spent 35 years with Tetra Pak, mainly in the R&D environment. Among his former positions are VP, R&D (packaging/packaging materials), MD, Converting Technology (development/supply of converting equipment).
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    Microsoft’s Bill Gates used to have Think Week, where he took 1 week and read any proposal that any employee would submit. People would pour their hearts into their work, the reward being the chance to impress the top leader.

  • Idélaboratoriet

    If you need step-by-step idea generation techniques, why not look up the book The Idea Agent by Michanek/Breiler – that Sven Andrén helped out to develop – which is full of idea generation methods in specific and idea management methods in general as well.