How business success is coming from within

Getting more from a 21st century workforce is not as simple as paying them more. Today’s employees thrive on feeling valued, in control and able to make a difference. A recent survey found 41% of professionals felt they had little or no impact on their company’s broader mission, leading 65% of those with powerful ideas preferring to pursue them elsewhere rather than internally.

Creating the right structures for autonomy and promoting freedom to innovate within the company structure can pay off big time, by keeping all of that innovation and motivation working for the company.

1. Build your own intrapreneurs

With millennials expecting unprecedented levels of freedom, highly structured organisations are finding it more difficult to attract the best talent. But Phillipe Ridder, Co-founder of the Board of Innovation suggests going with it. To not only attract the best, but also allow “corporates to innovate like start-ups”. To do this, he advocates ‘intrapreneurship programmes’: allowing employees to be more entrepreneurial on particular projects by reducing supervision, giving them more ownership and short-circuiting the feedback loop with the CEO. Intrapreneurship principles can work outside management and more creative jobs too though. Since online shoe retailer Zappos scrapped scripts in their call centres, instead allowing staff to chat through complaints how they thought best, customer ratings have dramatically increased. Showing how handing decisions down to workers can equal increased motivation at all levels.

2. React with an ideas lab

Nurturing entrepreneurial behavior within the workforce is one way to get the best from staff. But some of the most forward-looking brands are going one step further. Embedding a separate enterprise within their own, to nurture their top thinkers. Welcome to the ideas lab.

When Absolut Vodka was looking for its next step from an advertising-led brand to one with a more meaningful relationship with its customers, it set up Absolut Labs, its own start-up. Part think tank, part ideas incubator, allowing them to beta test concepts quickly without big company complexity. The result? Absolute Reality, a project inviting 5,000 people to a live concert via Google Cardboard headsets.

When Sephora beauty products set out to get the edge in innovative client experience by leveraging technology across their whole brand experience, they created Sephora Innovation Lab. A facility to concentrate on building seamless experiences across their mobile site and in store, where cutting-edge display innovations can be prototyped in a live environment. Having a separate location also gives their core staff a place to take time out to think about ‘over the horizon’ possibilities.

For Sonos, Sonos Studios was the answer when they wanted to use audio to accelerate true innovation. Now with branches in London and LA, hosting musicians playing live shows, these are the places Sonos ‘experiment at the intersection of three spaces – music, culture and technology’. An approach that’s helped develop their ‘tunable room concept’, allowing musicians to decide what kind of sound they want the room to have.

So the best idea just may be, setting up your own ideas lab.