What is it that motivates people to be innovative? While it may not be the primary motivator, most people want to enjoy some benefit from their own ideas. By default, you own what you create, but that doesn’t hang true if you’re an employee. As an employee, everything you create is owned by your employer whether or not you’ve signed an agreement to that effect. So what does this do to your willingness to be innovative?
Part of this may depend on your entrepreneurial tendency and your sense of personal control. As an entrepreneur, I feel a strong sense of ownership of my efforts and ideas. It’s not about money for me, though. It’s about making sure the fruits of my labor and my creative ventures are being put to good use – that they’re helping change lives. It’s about ensuring my ideas and efforts move forward according to my personal mission. I’m curious – does that matter so much for folks who don’t consider themselves entrepreneurial?
For employees for whom the level of purpose described above is also a key motivator, it is your responsibility to align your job choices with your values. Unfortunately that is not always possible given the current job-market challenges, but ultimately, it is a worthy goal.
Companies that have benefited the most from employee-driven innovation exert effort to make sure their employees are engaged in the process. Whether it is through monetary reward or non-financial recognition, they find ways to motivate folks to contribute their creative ideas to forward the company’s mission. For an enlightening view on what motivates people (and it isn’t always what you think!) check out this great TED Talks video featuring Dan Pink.
The bottom line for employers: it is crucial that you keep in mind that different people are driven by different things and value different types of rewards. Just because something drives you, don’t assume it motivates others.
So can work-for-hire stifle innovation? Only if you let it…