Alright, so perhaps the title is a little grandiose, but every organization can definitely learn a thing or two by using some of the methods that successful companies like Google have used to get where they are. Here are the important points:
- Google was once a small business
- Google has come up with lots of innovative new ideas
- Many of those ideas have occurred as a result of their “20 percent time” policy, which encourages its engineers to spend one day a week working on their own projects, unrelated to work – including AdSense – one of their most lucrative products, which brings in a large part of their > $1billion in quarterly revenue
- What could happen in other small businesses if they also paid employees to be creative?
Now, before gets their hackles up, i am well aware that for most businesses, allowing their employees to spend 20 percent of their time on things that don’t make immediate money is probably not a wise business decision. Joe’s Sports Bar is not Google – it’s an entirely different business model. But there are some similarities – even in small businesses. Both have employees who have some creativity in them – even part-timers. Both organizations must innovate to thrive, and should always be looking out for competitive advantages by creating new products, services or experiences. A big similarity between Google and Joe’s is the need for real commitment to employee innovation and involvement. Here’s why:
If Google were to have merely hoped that their engineers would produce the next great new Google product nights and weekends, they probably would not have AdSense today. Similarly, if Joe’s Sports Bar merely hopes that its employees will come up with fresh new food, service or entertainment ideas on their off-shifts, they might be missing out on the next great product or service as well.
Here are some ideas for a business might adapt the Google recipe of commitment to achieve breakthrough results – many of them with the help of social media tools, which can help people within organizations to collectively innovate:
- Pay employees to spend 15 minutes per week logging in to a shared platform to share their ideas with each other ($2-5 week?). Such a platform could be open, like Twitter.com, or perhaps closed, like Yammer.com.
- For businesses without employee computers, put a simple used internet-enabled computer ($200) in the employee break room or office and pay employees post somethings at the end of each shift
- Give a cash reward, choice of shift or day off to any employee who has their idea implemented in the business
- Give all employees a small percentage of the profit for a product that they collectively develop and implement
The obvious upsides to this sort of approach are more involved, happier employees, better products, and a more developed ability to adapt to the market – especially when using social media to innovate with both customers and employees. There is no downside except for a small investment in the form or employee pay or rewards. Google seemed to think that was worth it, and it’s worked pretty well for them so far..