Most companies have under-utilized one of their most important assets – the ideas inside their employees’ heads.

Frontline employees by virtue of working with customers and products every day are bombarded with insights that can have a significant impact on the company’s bottom line. However, in most companies, these employees don’t have a voice and their ideas become hidden assets.

A snippet from Hugh Molotsi’s session during the Innov8rs Connect Unconference, June-September 2020. To watch the full session recording, join Innov8rs Community with a Content or Premium Pass.

For example, Steve Wozniak was an HP employee and begged management five times to make what eventually became the Apple I after he left to start Apple Computers. On the other hand, because Google encouraged its employees to work on their own ideas, engineer Paul Buccheit was able to create Gmail.

The point is this: companies that don’t leverage their employees’ ideas risk losing out on disruptive innovation that could drive tremendous growth.

Six Facets For Empowering Employees

Imagine a workplace where every employee feels they can do the best work of their lives. They are encouraged to autonomously develop insights as they work with customers and products. Those insights lead to ideas which they share with their fellow employees, with corporate partners, and even customers, refining and improving them along the way.

Such a workplace is not some imaginary utopia. We’ve observed many aspects of this vision in several innovative companies that empower frontline employees. We developed the Intrapreneurship Empowerment Model as a framework to bring these best practices to your company.

This model consists of the following six facets:

  1. Time & Freedom – Employees are given self-directed time, carved out from their day jobs, to work on their own projects.
  2. Dedicated Innovation Team – All employees are supported by a central, internal team of supportive coaches who provide the tools, mindset and guidance needed to accelerate the company’s innovative progress.
  3. Design Thinking – Employees use Design Thinking principles to be effective innovators.
  4. Open Collaboration – Employees can easily find out what other employees are working on in their self-directed projects, provide feedback, and form teams across organizational and geographic boundaries.
  5. Lean Experimentation – Employees are provided the tools and infrastructure to test their ideas. Decisions are driven by data instead of the leader’s opinion.
  6. Align for Yes – Employees are given resources, tools, training, and senior leadership mentoring to develop their self-directed projects. A formal process is in place allowing projects to “graduate” to officially funded initiatives.

Empowering employees to work on their own ideas gives them a boost in intrinsic motivation, which in turn leads to increased job satisfaction. And when employees have high job satisfaction, retention is also high. Increased intrinsic motivation also leads employees to do more creative work which results in more innovative outcomes. When a company becomes more innovative, revenue and profits increase.


This is a piece from The Innovator’s Handbook 2021. If you’re keen to dive into the best and latest on corporate innovation, request your copy here. To discuss anything Business Design join our upcoming Innov8rs Connect online event, 7-11 December.

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