tion among people you manage, therefore, by pulling people apart (e.g., giving them a bullpen) as well as putting people together (e.g., putting them on a team).
Monitor and Prod
Neither Percy Spencer nor Spence Silver was allowed to work on his project without accountability. Both men eventually had to report on the results they accom- plished with their experimentation and imagination. At 3M, people are expected to allocate 15 percent of their time away from company business to work on new, cre- ative ideas. They can even appropriate company mate- rials and resources to work on them. However, individ- uals are always held accountable for their decisions. They need to show results for their “play time.”
Holding people accountable for outcomes, in fact, is an important motivator for improved performance. Two innovators in the entertainment industry captured this principle with these remarks: “The ultimate inspi- ration is the deadline. That’s when you have to do what needs to be done. The fact that twice a year the creative talent of this country is working until midnight to get something ready for a trade show is very good for the economy. Without this kind of pressure, things would turn to mashed potatoes” (von Oech, 1986: 119). One way Woody Morcott, former CEO at Dana Corpora- tion, held people accountable for innovation was to require that each person in the company submit at least two suggestions for improvement each month. At least 70 percent of the new ideas must be implemented. Woody admitted that he stole the idea during a visit to a Japanese company where he noticed workers hud- dled around a table scribbling notes on how some ideas for improvement might work. At Dana, this require- ment is part of every person’s job assignment. Rewards are associated with such ideas as well. A plant in Chihuahua, Mexico, rewards employees with $1.89 for every idea submitted and another $1.89 if the idea is used. “We drill into people that they are responsible for keeping the plant competitive through innovation,” Morcott said (personal communication).
In addition to accountability, innovativeness is stimulated by what Gene Goodson at Johnson Controls called “sharp-pointed prods.” After taking over the automotive group at that company, Goodson found that he could stimulate creative problem solving by issuing certain mandates that demanded innova- tiveness. One such mandate was, “There will be no more forklift trucks allowed in any of our plants.” At first hearing, that mandate sounds absolutely outra- geous. Think about it. You have a plant with tens of thousands of square feet of floor space. The loading
docks are on one side of the building, and many tons of heavy raw materials are unloaded weekly and moved from the loading docks to work stations throughout the entire facility. The only way it can be done is with forklifts. Eliminating forklift trucks would ruin the plant, right?
Wrong. This sharp-pointed prod demanded that individuals working in the plant find ways to move the work stations closer to the raw materials, to move the unloading of the raw materials closer to the work sta- tions, or to change the size and amounts of material being unloaded. The innovations that resulted from eliminating forklifts saved the company millions of dol- lars in materials handling and wasted time; dramati- cally improved quality, productivity, and efficiency; and made it possible for Johnson Controls to capture some business from its Japanese competitors.
One of the best methods for generating useful prods is to regularly monitor customer preferences, expectations, and evaluations. Many of the most cre- ative ideas have come from customers, the recipients of goods and services. Identifying their preferences in advance and monitoring their evaluations of products or services later are good ways to get ideas for innovation and to be prodded to make improvements. All employ- ees should be in regular contact with their own cus- tomers, asking questions and monitoring performance.
Customers are not just the end users of a business product or service. In fact, all of us have customers, whether we are students in school, members of a fam- ily, players on a basketball team, or whatever.
Customers are simply those for whom we are try- ing to produce something or whom we serve. Students can count their instructors, class members, and poten- tial employers as customers whom they serve. A priori and post hoc monitoring of their expectations and evaluations is an important way to help foster new ideas for problem solving. This monitoring is best done through one-on-one meetings, but it can also be done through follow-up calls, surveys, customer complaint cards, suggestion systems, and so on.
In summary, you can foster innovativeness by holding people accountable for new ideas and by stim- ulating them with periodic prods. The most useful prods generally come from customers.
Reward Multiple Roles
The success of Post-It Notes at 3M is more than a story of the creativity of Spence Silver. It also illustrates the necessity of people playing multiple roles in innovation and the importance of recognizing and rewarding those who play such roles. Without a number of
NG PROBLEMS ANALYTICALLY AND CREATIVELY