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Live from FEI 2014: Heidi Hattendorf on Real World Innovation in a Competitive Envrionment

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Heidi Hattendorf brought in a wealth of information about how Motorola addresses real-world challenges through their extensive innovation system, which is comprised of six key parts:

  • *People -- innovation champion network
  • *Tools and process -- idea management tools
  • *Metrics -- scorecards, business reviews
  • *Communications -- town halls, newsletters
  • *Recognition (monetary and non-monetary)
  • *Sponsorship -- buy-in, resources, accountability

The last two items are of especial importance to innovation endeavors, and where Hattendorf's insights were really helpful was that she focused on where the rubber meets the road in firm-wide innovation endeavors.

"Companies vote with dollars...and [by] putting people on projects."

Innovating means living on the edge, and taking risks. It can often seem unclear whether others might view the risk as a reasonable and meaningful endeavor or a quixotic tilt at a windmill.  But, it is rewards and recognition that enable us to tell the difference. As Hattendorf pointed out, recognition and reward can occur at multiple levels:

Individual: Individuals can be recognized as innovators and rewarded with people who will champion their ideas, causes, and endeavors throughout the organization. Nothing says "great idea!" like having someone pass it along and ask other people to endorse it. Likewise, being referred to as someone who acts, creates, and innovates can be an incredibly rewarding feeling.

Businesses and teams: At the level of businesses and teams, rewards and recognition generally take the form of the contributions that people make to the innovation endeavor, and the willingness to take up projects and put in the team's/firm's effort to making them a reality.

Ideas: Ideas can be a cause for celebration and the acknowledgement of their impact. This can have a profound effect not just on the people who contributed to the idea, but on the people who may have an idea for the future.

Results: This is a separate category from ideas, insofar as it is crucial to reward and recognize both good ideas and good results. Once results are achieved, they can be recognized by actually adopting the results and enacting them. Notably, just because an innovation endeavor goes to completion does not mean that anyone is actually doing anything differently. Recognizing and rewarding the results means acting, living, and transacting the firm's business in new ways as a function of these results.

In combination, these four forms of recognition and reward make it clear to all of the company's stakeholders that the firm will support innovation at every level, from the offbeat idea straight through the active implementation in day-to-day living.

"[Employees] don't need their manager to tell them, 'Oh, you must innovate!'...Sponsorship makes it real."

One of the key engines of innovation is sponsorship, and it has to come from the C-suite on down. Moreover, it cannot be management-fad-of-the-week language that tells people that they are supposed to innovate.  Rather, there needs to be sponsorship of the employees' endeavors, which, in addition to rewards and recognition, involves six key constructs:

1) Buy-in -- Express belief in employees' abilities to innovate, and actively seek ideas from employees
2) Resources -- Give employees time, tools, and constructive feedback
3) Accountability -- When ideas are generated, follow through and follow up to make sure that they are executed
4) Visibility -- Let people know what others are working on and provide continuous updates about the targets, processes, and results
5) Definition -- When it is time to engage in idea generation, help employees to define the challenges and put out a broad call for ideas
6) Connection -- Link innovators to internal and external people that can provide talent, support, and collaboration

In any large company, it can be difficult even to decide to innovate, but inertia can interfere with the implementation. The processes of recognition/reward and sponsorship, however, are two of the key first steps to having an innovative spirit pervade the company. As Heidi Hattendorf has shown with her series of concrete and actionable recommendations, an innovative culture is within reach for any company.

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

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