Peer Advice on Innovation Incentives

By Scott Kirsner |  January 4, 2018

Post-It Notes featuring innovation incentives, from our Los Angeles Field Study

We love using Post-it Notes at our live events as a way to understand the issues that participants are thinking about and working on.

At our Los Angeles Field Study in December, one participant started a discussion about incentives — how can you build systems that reward and recognize people for contributing to innovation efforts?

So we invited the other participants to use Post-Its to share the sort of incentives they offer — or are planning to offer — to encourage employees and leaders throughout the organization to dedicate their time and energy to innovation. Some very good ones at the end…

  • Attach innovation as a KPI to change/incent behavior and actions.
  • Discretionary small spot incentive [money] for innovative ideas.
  • Tie incentives to annual review.
  • Position it as a benefit to be selected to work on innovation team.
  • Create awards, like an “Employee choice for innovator of the year” (like the People’s Choice Awards).
  • Institute innovation as a personal development goal for employees. Make it part of job descriptions and expectations as soon as people start at your company.
  • Make innovation aspirational; let associates take a role in a mentor-supported opportunity to launch your own idea.
  • Career advancement opportunities. Exposure to senior leaders. HR performance incentives. Career development and education.
  • Outstanding concepts are rewarded with one month of private use of a company-owned Tesla. Some cases merit a a tropical vacation benefit or cash award.
  • We would like to see promising employee ideas…rewarded with a temporary relocation to the innovation lab to prototype the idea.
  • Give employees access to senior leadership when innovative ideas are developed.
  • After a competition for ideas, winner is given three-month sabbatical to work on project with internal resources and support.
  • Ask employees for their learning desires and then help them achieve them during projects.
  • Early stakeholder involvement in “sexy” front-end meetings and brainstorms.
  • Offer incentives for certain roles when they take innovation courses.
  • Money. Time with global leadership. Rotation onto an innovation team.
  • In our annual Tech Project Awards, we added a new category for innovation projects, with a special exception that it doesn’t have to be fully-operational t be recognized.
  • Empowerment: give money and time to try ideas with minimal approval to get started. Just try!
  • If you come up with an innovative idea, you get to work on it, without adding to your existing workload.
  • Skin in the game.
  • Make it real, not a “side hustle.”
  • Recognize people as smart and creative.
  • Money for patents.
  • Awards banquet. Patent plaques. Monetary rewards.
  • A storyboard contest to get employees to visualize new customer journeys.
  • Incorporate [innovation activity] into existing bonus structure, and have a set participation goal for each employee.
  • Vacation days. A trip to a destination of the employee’s choice. Awards and badges. Adoption.
  • Education and training stipends for employees.
  • Simply listening to employees and sharing their ideas publicly.
  • Review the project and acknowledge the viability with the employee. Recognize the employee. Fund the project. Incentives (cash/stock) for ideas that generate improvement, whether cost savings or revenue.
  • The work itself, within a creative environment and with a creative team.