Do employees really not submit ideas because they want money?

Categories: Innovation Insights

I was in a great meeting today in Germany where we discussed views on how to incent scientists to contribute high value technology ideas. A strong belief was expressed that the majority of researchers would never share their ideas because they would lose potential rewards. Indeed someone shared an anecdote that scientists would hoard their ideas on paper, and leave the company with them years later.

This got me thinking. The ‘money for ideas’ argument is frequently raised as a reason for people not contributing enthusiastically to an idea management program. We have done research that shows otherwise, but it is an old chestnut.

But let’s get real for a moment. A relatively scientist in a good firm may be on a package worth 100,000 Euro plus ($150K). The premium for getting a patent granted in most companies is around $1,000. Moreover, the patent may take three or more years to get to the grant stage. So what rational scientist in their right mind would hoard an idea (most of which will go no where), for the presumed quest for $1,000 in three years time? The answer – no one.

In fact, this highlights the general intellectual laziness that surrounds many corporate processes. We listen to staff, collect their opinions, and accept them at largely face value if they make sense. The fact that they are wrong is never considered – in spite of the fact that it may mean our solution will not work. AIE! I want to work with dolphins.

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