Interview: Robert Tucker (Part 2)

Our innovation authors series continues with the second half of our interview with Robert B. Tucker, whose latest book, “Innovation is Everybody’s Business,” will be released Oct. 25. The first part of the interview focused on people's perception of their roles within an organization; today he talks about behaviors in innovation.

5. You’ve written, “behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.” Many companies struggle with striking a balance on implementing a rewards system to promote user engagement when using an online innovation platform. What’s your take on rewards vs. recognition in an innovation/idea management system?

I don’t think that people who develop their I-Skills are primarily driven by extrinsic rewards; they get joy in being asked for their ideas, and for having their ideas respected and valued and implemented. Having said that, I think small “frequent flyer” type participation rewards are an excellent way for your most prolific contributors to build value and see that their frequency is acknowledged by those running the idea campaigns.

And I have no problem with unexpected, random after-the-fact rewards being given to contributors who come up with something incredible. Here’s dinner for two at your favorite restaurant, we appreciate your incredible work on that project and it helped us do X and we hadn’t thought of that solution.

6. What missteps are most often repeated in the companies that just want people to take part?

Perhaps the biggest one is doing any sort of all organize “we want your ideas” appeal. Yet I still see this mistake all the time with companies who just don’t know what they’re doing with idea management.

Obviously, they aren’t clients of Imaginatik [laughs] and frankly, that’s one thing I respect about you guys is that you don’t just sell software; you help clients deliver bottom line results.

7. Final question: When is innovation easy?

When it’s merely incremental in nature. You introduce a new color Post-it Note; you modify your packaging slightly, you change the chrome around on your car line and call it next year’s model. It may be straightforward, but no pain no gain.

I have got to say, I’m seeing an outbreak of another type of “innovation” in the United States where companies are trying to put more filler in the beef and hope customers don’t notice. I find it disconcerting.

It seems they’ve been studying up on the airlines. You can just imagine their behind-the-scenes brainstorming sessions: “Let’s see folks, today we are going to focus on coming up with new things we can charge extra for.” We’re already charging for checking bags, for in-flight food, we’re hitting them with fees if you want to get on an earlier connecting flight, but what else?” This may be innovation but I want no part of it.

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