Fed-up Employees Can Be Fierce Innovation Force

Ann All

In their quest for innovation and new ideas, companies are always looking for new and relatively untapped sources, including the consumers of their products and services, especially those located in emerging markets.


But they may be overlooking a fierce force within: the fed-up employees who are chafing at the corporate bit.


Maybe because I've occasionally been one of those employees in the past, I was quite taken with a suggestion from former Gartner Fellow Bruce Rogow in a CIO.com blog post about how tough it is to innovate at big companies. Rogow advises collecting the most hacked-off and vocal-about-it workers and spinning them out as a company competitor.


As CIO.com blogger Abbie Lundberg writes:

If your company is an industry incumbent - especially if it's a large one - innovation isn't likely to just happen. You need to find fault with your existing products or operations; acknowledge that, as Pogo once famously said, "we have met the enemy, and he is us"; and then encourage those who are most vocal about what's wrong to create something new while keeping the corporate anti-bodies in check.

Too often, corporate culture tends to breed complacency, which doesn't exactly make folks hungry for new ideas. Other innovation-stifling factors mentioned in Lundberg's blog: lack of incentives; internal politics and control issues; and uncertainty over pay-off. If nothing else, I expect these folks spun off into a new entity would feel highly motivated to best their former colleagues.


One of Lundberg's readers offers a link to a 37signals article that offers a less radical version of Rogow's idea: Keep employees divided into groups of 15 or less, each of which can work in its own way toward an organizational goal.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 5, 2008 8:55 AM Aaron A. Aaron A.  says:
In the development world, the biggest problem I see is employees having an upside to using non-standard processes to develop their software. Once 200 bugs and 3 point releases are under your belt -- if the product is a critical asset to the company, then you are too. The problem, obviously, is that so many of these bugs exist because of other bugfixes, and each level deeper it goes, more and more of the knowledge it takes to diagnose without reverse engineering ends up in an employees noggin. Reply
Jul 9, 2008 5:59 PM Jeff Simeone Jeff Simeone  says:
Interesting perspective. Good Blog! Reply
Jul 9, 2008 7:31 PM Peter-John Taylor Peter-John Taylor  says:
Having read the reference article at CIO.com, I concur with the quite comprehensive coverage (and comments) about the factors that most likely hinder innovation at large companies, especially the tendency to maintain the status quo, overtly as risk-aversion or to serve the internal politics."Fed up" employees may be those who feel their creativity and ambition is stifled by those two factors, assuming of course that they've worked within the system to promote their ideas in support of company goals. That said, I think it's unlikely those employees will find their way to company spinoffs. They may leave the former "core business" to their ex-employers and innovate elsewhere. Reply
Jul 10, 2008 10:33 AM Hakeem Olajide Hakeem Olajide  says:
Quite an interesting piece. A very interesting way of utilising creative edge from the rebels. This will also help in integrating and motivating these members of staff. It is also a refresher for the Company.Quite interesting Reply

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