As an innovation practitioner, ensuring that program leaders can motivate people to participate in their innovation programs is something I spend quite a lot of time thinking about. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that crowdsourced innovation is extremely effective. But, to be successful, you must find the right approach to consistently — and repeatedly — engage your crowd.
‘Build it and they will come’ is a lovely idea, but I’m afraid that if all you do is “build it,” they don’t. At the risk of bursting many a hopeful bubble: simply instituting an innovation process is not enough. Employees are not machines, and a diverse array of behaviors and backgrounds requires an equally diverse set of motivators.
Here are 9 drivers (and examples) you should consider using to engage your crowd in your innovation efforts.
This could be love for a person, object, or cause. It’s an extremely strong motivator and results in a very strong emotional response. Use this motivator carefully, though — if people feel manipulated, love can quickly turn to hate.
PRO TIP: Offer contributors of winning ideas the chance to have a monetary donation to their favorite charity made in their name.
This one appeals to the competitive nature that lies within all of us. We want to be the best, win the prize, be at the top. This motivator works extremely well, but remember to establish ground rules — this driver inspires cheating almost as often as it encourages participation.
PRO TIP: Create a specific, physical award (like a trophy) that winning ideators can go after. There’s nothing quite like being able to show the world your accomplishments by displaying a prize with your name on it.
People like to be associated with success, and make their accomplishments a central part of how they are perceived by others. To be known for your achievements is validating.
PRO TIP: Consistently identify individuals for their participation in your innovation program, such as naming the “best innovator” or “top contributor.” You can also have a bit of fun here, perhaps calling out the “most unique suggestion we can’t use” or “this month’s serial ideator.”
When people share an idea that resonates with others, they want to be given credit for it. People like to wear a badge of honor — whether literally or figuratively — because it helps them to feel a sense of achievement.
PRO TIP: Make a big deal out of the people who participate in your innovation efforts, and always share the news with the company crowd. A weekly roundup of accomplishments, sent in a global email or posted to your internal communications site, does wonders to reinforce why participation matters.
Though this is in line with a few of the previous suggestions, recognition is so powerful that it deserves individual attention. In fact, research shows that 86% of values-based recognition programs lead to increased engagement.
PRO TIP: Along with being clear about who has done what for your program, offer top ideators exposure to influential people or the chance to explore personal career progression with an executive.
The obvious: when an activity is enjoyable, it is inherently engaging. People want to have fun, so it makes sense that the process of having ideas and making ideas better should make them feel good (if you want them to keep doing it).
PRO TIP: Implement an innovation management platform that reflects human behavior and desires. Spigit uses game mechanics, social dynamics, and a virtual marketplace to make innovation fun and valuable for participants.
Collaborative innovation provides members of the crowd with the opportunity to influence, shape, or determine the outcome of different business challenges. Ensure that you’re actually listening to what the crowd is telling you, and more importantly, act on it.
PRO TIP: Always communicate with your crowd about how the ideas you chose panned out. Even if they don’t work in the end, it’s important that participants know their efforts weren’t wasted.
Sometimes, people get involved with business efforts because they think they should or feel guilty if they don’t. Often, this behavior is reinforced by leadership. And although a sense of duty might’ve been the motivation that caused someone to get involved at first, it’s unlikely to keep them engaged long-term.
PRO TIP: Executive sponsorship is critical — and not just in writing. Company leaders need to exemplify their own dedication to innovation before expecting others to do so, and should make an effort to be visibly hands-on in the process.
Admittedly, I’m tossing this one in here as an example of what not to do. Fear is an incredibly powerful motivator, but for all the wrong reasons. Fear of a person or potential repercussions may lead to the outcome you’re after, but does not build sustainability or longevity for future activities. Plus, it breeds negativity that will permeate your innovation program and the way people interact with it. Using fear is simply not worth the damage it will cause.
PRO TIP: Don’t do it.
If you’re interested in innovation, I believe you need to be knowledgeable about human behavior and why people do what they do. The real skill is not identifying these motivators, but taking the time to determine what combination of drivers to use to inspire the activity and behaviors you require from your crowd. Not all of these will work, and not every mix of motivators you try will be successful. But when you land on the best way to engage your crowd, you will also discover the key to continued innovation success.