The Most Creative Ideas Come from Your Employees

By Frank Kenna

I just read about Chris Hanley, the co-inventor of Trivial Pursuit, who died Monday, leaving behind a legacy of creativity – and questions!  His story is intriguing:

One evening in 1979, Hanley & Scott Abbott, his co-inventor, came up with the game idea over a few beers while musing about what a great business Scrabble must be.  A year later, Trivial Pursuit was launched, and by 1984, had sold 20 million copies. In 2008, they sold the game to Hasbro for $80 million.  Initial investors, mostly friends, put in $1,000 and were repaid a thousand-fold over the following years.

So, I ask you… what’s your R&D budget, and when was the last time those efforts produced a $20 million product within the first few years?  How large does a R&D budget really need to be?  Many companies find that the best source for new product ideas are their employees.  For example, at Google, engineers are given a day a week to work on their own pet projects.  There is also an “ideas mailing list” that is open to anyone at Google.  From there, they have a process to let the great ideas bubble to the top.

Do you have anything like this?  Maybe your company’s best and greatest ideas are just waiting to be discovered inside your own four walls. Employee suggestion programs can be very productive, particularly when they’re focused on a specific subject like product development or cost cutting. Even better when there are rewards and employee recognition associated with great ideas.

(Photo: Hasbro.com)

Sharon Toelle
June 4, 2010

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