It’s well known that many employees are not engaged at work, meaning they aren’t that interested in their jobs. According to Gallup research, in the US, only about 34% of workers are engaged, which means tens of millions are not. The cost of such widespread disengagement runs into the billions of dollars for employers each year.
One effective and easy way to empower employees is to listen to their ideas and feedback. However, ideas and feedback collection programs often simply die off, because no action was taken after the collecting.
Nathan recently interviewed Coby Skonord, the Founder and CEO at Ideawake.
What makes the Ideawake approach different is that once the ideas and feedback have been captured, they build skills accelerator programs. They crowdsource ideas from many contributors and then develop a proactive plan, so ideation and feedback don’t go into a void, “We co-facilitate a program and process, where employees go through a four week program to prove out whether their idea will work, an eight week program to prototype the idea and then a 12-week program to actually pilot it in the real workplace,” he explained.
The Ideawake platform has different voting mechanisms for surfacing good employee ideas. Skonord also explains that the people closest to a process often have the best ideas for improving that process. Going to the employees and asking for their feedback, documenting it, and taking appropriate action is more effective than holding 10 board room meetings to make a single decision, he added.
Investing capital in new, fresh ideas within companies might fail most of the time because there are gaps between ideation, market validation, available internal human resources, and other factors like project management.
“The employee who submits the idea, if it’s selected, has the ability to then test that idea over a quick sprint, or 4-week period. So, it’s applying the concept of Agile to the process of making decisions around projects. So, if you do very small tranches of very small funding to validate the idea and then afterwards the project needs the level of funding at the pilot perspective, you can then bring the project into the existing process,” he said.
If the process matures to a certain point, the employee who had the idea and followed through with its development could eventually spin it off into a new part of the company or even a new subsidiary.
Employees care most about the intrinsic motivation through participating in the idea/feedback collection, and the subsequent skills acceleration and idea support. Intrinsic motivation like interest, passion, curiosity, and drive at the personal level tends to be more motivating for employees than extrinsic rewards like money, recognition, praise, and status.
There has been some research conducted showing the value of intrinsic motivation, “Numerous studies have examined the effects of intrinsic motivation, including the adaptive consequences for individuals such as exposing them to novel situations and developing their diverse competencies to cope with unforeseen circumstances . In addition, intrinsic motivation is the propensity for individuals to learn about new subjects and to differentiate their interests, thereby fostering a sense of purpose and meaning . Recent empirical findings have shown that intrinsic motivation is a key factor in academic achievement  and pursuit of interest , thus fostering learning and growth.”
These references relate to the context of academic learning, but many believe they also apply to employees in work settings. Nathan mentions the work of Daniel Pink in the book Drive because it places intrinsic motivation in the context of work.
Pink specifically defines motivation as having several components like autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is simply having enough freedom at work to make some of your decisions, and do your work in a way that fits you. Mastery is experiencing your own improvements, while moving toward becoming your best. Purpose is contributing to the greater good or connecting with it.
Ideawake starts with challenges and links them to short-term and long-term organizational goals from the beginning of the ideation and feedback collection process in order to create clarity for companies as they move forward.
While goal-setting is a very old idea and common practice, there is a style of innovation which is not linked to organizational goals or strategy,
“The problem tends to be that the innovation center doesn’t have a clear strategy that’s aligned with the company’s — or doesn’t have one at all. Many labs install kegs and offer kombucha on tap to get the creative gears turning, and then begin to ideate with only a limited idea of their goals. Some of the innovation teams I’ve met recently seem unsure if they are charged with serving the core business or with disrupting it,” wrote Simone Ban Ahuja in a Harvard Business Review article.
Innovation which is disconnected from goals and strategy has been dubbed, ‘Innovation theater.’ This term means putting on a show by engaging in various innovation practices divorced from practical concerns like measurement, goals, and alignment with overall business strategy.
Ideawake’s approach begins with goals in order to avoid this problem.