How to ensure that idea platforms don’t take employees for granted

Businesses are increasingly turning to internal idea platforms to unite their people around innovation. I had only ever thought of this as a positive until I came across this thoughtful post called Are Your Social Business Systems Designed for Extraction or Contribution? CV Harquail’s key point is that social business systems are designed to extract from employees rather than to contribute to employees’ larger selves. In fact, our experience is the opposite.

photo credit: Rlefranc

In working on open innovation projects with large firms we’ve noted that far from people resenting being asked for their ideas, the opportunity to express their creativity is highly self-affirming. People often complain of being unfulfilled in their jobs, so in many ways the problem is the opposite.

She goes on to ask whether businesses can recreate social business systems so that they nurture a spirit of contribution. That’s exactly what we try to do when setting up internal innovation networks. There are at least three guidelines to this:

Firstly, incentivise and reward. These incentives could be bonuses, Amazon vouchers and exposure to senior management is very powerful.

Secondly ask people clear and important questions that will affect the company and their jobs. This is empowering.

Thirdly always actually do something with the winning ideas.

This whole question is part a wider trend of course. There’s a new blending of work and personal selves that is irresistible and this forms the backdrop to social business systems.

Done sensitively, internal ideas platforms can enrich both the company and the employee.


  1. A study published by NESTA in 2009 goes into detail about exactly this topic of enhancing innovative working within an organisation. ( – the research was led by Prof. Fiona Patterson from City University London.

    One interesting thing about reward is that people often respond better to rewards like exposure to senior management or even recognition within the company rather than the monetary rewards that are so commonly applied. Money is nice, but feeling valued and appreciated is priceless. 🙂

  2. Thanks Kristine for the link to the NESTA report. Yes I recall that and have had first hand of experience of the motivational power of getting your ideas in front of the top brass.
    Thanks Michael for your positive comment too. Yes there is a lot of value waiting to be released. If only companies knew what companies knew…

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