LO – The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions has published a white paper about employee-driven innovation in Denmark. The paper comes highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject of employee-driven innovation (EDI), Danes and non-Danes alike. (It comes in both danish and english)
The paper includes a typology of employee-driven innovation and it presents the cases of DSB, Gobain Isover and Vestas.
One of the key messages are, that the changes needed to begin harnessing the distributed intelligence of the workforce are not a radical departure from the way most organisations work today. The most important aspects of successfully engaging in EDI is a relationship between management and the employees built on mutual trust, positive expectations and interaction between the two groups.
LO also recommends that you include as many employees as possible, as the origins of a great idea can emerge from anywhere in an organisation.
The paper cites a 2006 study of Danish companies wherein 59% of companies engaged in employee-driven innovation report that their innovational efforts resulted in better numbers on the bottom line. On the other hand, only 41% of the companies with a top-down approach report such positive effects of their innovational efforts.
Such a case is Vestas. It highlights both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ values and benefits of EDI. At Vestas, a move away from the top-down approach towards an employee-driven approach has resulted in improved worker productivity and higher levels of job-satisfaction all around the organisation.
Types of involvement
The paper presents threes type of innovation where EDI can be beneficial. In research-driven innovation, employees can contribute with their hands-on experiences and provide researchers with critical knowledge about the gaps between theory and practice. In user-driven innovation, the employees in sales, who interact with customers on a daily basis can contribute with the collected experiences of many users. Thirdly, when it comes to price-driven innovation, the cost cutting ideas of one employee can lead to massive company-wide savings.
Tools for employee-driven innovation
LO presents a list of tools that can used for EDI, such as Lean boards, change-agents, workshops and the innovation mail-box. In the innovation mail-box, all employees are invited to submit their ideas, and they are reward for doing so. Afterwards a committee goes through the ideas and selects the best ones.
In principle, the innovation mail-box may sound similar to Nosco’s Idea Exchange. However, the question is -why not take EDI a step further and use the collected knowledge of the employees to evaluate and develop the ideas using the market mechanism in Idea Exchange?
The white paper comes highly recommended with its usable definitions and great cases on employee-driven innovation. Find it here.