5 Design Traits for High Performance Innovation Systems

Over the last 12 + years of working at the Eureka! Ranch and the Innovation Engineering Institute I've had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with some of the most brilliant minds in innovation, business and marketing.  Recently, our founder, Doug Hall sat down with Dr. Dean Shroeder, co-author of The Idea Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottome up Ideas to talk about innovation collaboration systems.  Below are are few of things that we learned while listening in on their chat.

innovation suggestion box

High Performance Innovation Systems or Idea Systems have a number of design traits that separate them from classic suggestion box and social media sharing systems:

Leadership Defines What's VERY Important: When you ask for ideas with no direction you get ideas with no direction. High performance systems provide clear strategic direction of what leadership of the company or department are looking for. This means absolute clarity on: mission, narrative, strategic exclusions, tactical constraints and exploration areas.

Time, Resources, Polices: When the employees are focused on what's VERY important then there is a willingness to provide support for the effort. Successful programs provide employees with a couple of hours a week to dedicate.

Make it EASY to PRIVATELY Share Ideas & Drive Out Fear: Employee fear of getting in trouble, looking stupid, or saying the wrong thing is at an all time high. The best way we know to address this is by providing systems that enable employees to create PRIVATE networks of collaboration and to allow them to make PRIVATE responses to company requests.

Educate Teams and Energize with Weekly Brainstorming (Create) Sessions: Provide basic training in how to create, communicate and commercialize ideas. Then, keep the stimulus coming. Each week conduct a 30 minute session in each department or work group focused on igniting fresh ideas.


Igniting INTRINSIC Motivation: The research is clear that paying for ideas through contests and the like creates a short term energy that soon dies. To create a sustained high performance idea system ignite intrinsic motivation through - personal Thank You's - and celebrations of all those who participated in the effort each month. Provide a stronger sense of belonging to those who participate then those who don't.

Here is Dr. Deming's way of articulating the power of enabling employees, "The result will in time be greater innovation, applied science, technology expansion of market, greater service, greater material reward for everyone. There will be joy in work, joy in learning. Anyone that enjoys work is a pleasure to work with. Everyone will win; no loser."