Fostering a Spirit of Innovation in Mature Industries LO14725

Walter Derzko (
Fri, 22 Aug 1997 15:22:03 -0400

A colleage and client has the following interesting innovation challenge,
which I suspect is a challenge in several industries as well.

For the benefit of the lsit I'd like to share the problem with you and
post replies.

How does one motivate employees who are near retirement and can't be
bothered by idea generation. ie. too many systemic barriers in place.(see
background below).

I made some suggestions and I would like to hear the collective opinion of
the list. I'll summarize and repost as always.

Send your ideas to my Design Exchange email which is

Thank you

Walter Derzko
Director Idea Lab
a pilot program at the
Design Exchange

---------- Forwarded message ---------- >
>Walter , regarding our converastion, and your suggestions for
>researching and surveying opinions on our designing an effective
>employee ideation system to support New Product Devt Process, from both
>academic and corporate arenas.
> - An established and profitable Canadian industrial products products
>company selling to secondary manufactureres.
> - Capital intensive industry.
> - Highly impacted by market North Americanization and globalization
>pressures in competitive industry.
> - Like many we have downsized workforce considerably from late 1980's.
> - Age of workforce is highly concentrated in the late 40's and early
> Mature employee structure (most have over 20 yrs. of company
> - Have re-organized resulting in flat organization structure with
>reduced promotional opportunities.
> - Extremely conservative compensation structure with very little
>incentive available to individuals through annual merit increases or
>individualized variable incentive pay.
> - Used to have an old employee general suggestion system which
>didn't work well, and has left some negative perceptions with both
>management and employees.
>To implement an effective New Product Development Process utilizing a
>stagegate process, in which the front end (1st Stage) requires
>motivating strong employee creativity and new product idea generation.
>1.How best to provide the positive motivations (recognition ,
>rewards, etc.) to stimulate creativity and ideation , and build &
>maintain a corporate environment which encourages them?
>What forms of positive motivation work best? Size of rewards?
>2.How to remove the "negative" motivations which may impede people
>with good ideas from bringing them forward ?
>For example the following attitudes can be expected:
> - a busy employee may fear that by introducing a new product idea for
>which they themselves have good expertise, they may end up getting
>assigned to yet one more project team to implement the idea, thereby
>increasing their workload.
> - an employee may not create &/or submit ideas if they see no promotion
>opportunity for them at this stage in their career. Also why do it for
>someone else's benefit?
> - an employee who is getting closer to retirement may not want to shake
>things up.
> - management in a functional area may want to protect their scarce
>human resources from being tied up with new product development
> - negative perceptions of the old (now-discontinued) suggestion box
>system. >

I suspect several companies face the same dilemma. What strategy or tactic
would you propose? What we need here is a percptual change. I suspect
there is little $ in the budget for any type of program, especially since
most of these staff just want to coast to retirement. This also raises
some important HR issues, which I suspect this organization has yet to

I'll collect and summarize suggestions and repost to the list in 2 weeks

Thanks for your collective creative efforts.

Send your suggestions to Walter Derzko, Director Idea Lab at the Design
Exchange at


Walter Derzko <>

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