Fed-up Employees Can Be Fierce Innovation Force


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.