Fedex Days, 20% Time and Idea Management Systems

Ideas in a hurry. A number of companies are tapping into the collective intelligence of their teams by providing time slots dedicated to innovation. By either setting up twenty four hour periods where everyone breaks into teams and focuses on new ideas, or by allowing everyone to spend a part of their time to “outside the box” thinking on a consistent basis, companies are encouraging employees to contribute new ideas.

One approach is a “Fedex Day” (delivery in 24 hours). One company, Atlassian, took a long hard look at their innovative growth and the innovation killing parts of their organization. They decided to set up a twenty four hour period allowing employees to work on whatever they want. The deliverables were due at the end of a long day. One thing they learned was twenty four hours wasn’t enough.

Google has famously allowed twenty per cent time. They encourage employees to spend a part of their time on any type of work they want.

The results have been mixed. The Fedex day approach was monitored at Atlassian and they clocked the number of ideas. And then again measured over time, noting some ideas reached delivery and other ideas were dropped over time. Google believes their best ideas and innovations came about as a result of their twenty per cent time, more than other work periods.

One approach for all these innovations, innovation time slots and work periods, is to use a method to capture and work on the ideas generated. An idea management system can be the backbone for these innovation efforts.

Deployment of idea management systems first of all announces the company has a dedication to a culture of innovation. The ideas that are posted can be worked on by fellow employees from near and far, and from all disciplines (not just the people we normally work with). Good ideas can be scientifically promoted for further attention. Similar ideas can be merged. Comments can be noted and promoted to be their own ideas. Institutional knowledge is captured over time, ready to be picked up in the future (“Didn’t we talk about this last year?”).

In this day and age, when companies are most impacted by the economy and must come up with new innovations to stimulate their customer’s buying habits… when the competitive nature of business demands breakthrough innovation to pull to the head of the pack… when good employees need to know their ideas have value… a culture of innovation, personified by collaborative idea management systems is a must.

By Ron Shulkin

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