With the recent story of a UK delivery driver’s 1.5MEUR per year cost saving idea being rewarded by a gift voucher worth little more than the price of a cup of coffee and a cake, one is left wondering what is the best way to reward genuine innovation?

For a start, in the case of the delivery driver, it seems that the only reward he was hoping for was some genuine appreciation and the chance of getting a better job outside the confines of his lorry. One can only assume that had one of his senior management team improved the bottom line of the business by a similar amount, they would have received a handsome bonus along with the benefit of increased dividends on their shares. So why not a delivery driver?

Anyone who has worked in a genuinely innovative company knows that innovation comes from the most unlikely sources and via unpredictable channels.  After all, history has taught us time and again that the greatest breakthroughs are born form errors and observations, rather than planed experiments and pre-ordained plans.

To this end it is not surprising that management are statistically the least likely to be innovative, and why? Because as the definition of management dictates they are responsible for the smooth running of the business and its processes, not something that naturally equates with innovation.  Therefore, true innovation is more likely to come from people on the shop floor trying to circumnavigate rules or indeed from outsiders that can see more clearly and with an external perspective.

True innovation needs time to incubate and while a manager might only be able to dedicate a few meetings here and there for innovation, a delivery driver out on the road has countless hours to work through their ideas.

Over the years, the most effective financial compensation schemes I have ever installed, have always been built upon rewarding individual excellence without neglecting the collective effort of those that make any idea happen.  I know this balance is not easy but it is possible if you allow those who may benefit, put their heads together to contribute to the structure of the scheme.

But as we learned from the delivery driver, he was disappointed not by money as such but by the lack of respect and appreciation and indeed the chance to show he was capable of much more than driving a truck.

Have a good week,

Harley

“A good idea is not enough. It needs to be nurtured, challenged, tested and only then put into action.” Harley Lovegrove (‘Making a Difference’, published 2007)