Tech Scouting: Rewards and Incentives



Article #11:  Rewards and Incentives

One of the biggest challenges of open innovation is motivating your technologists to go outside for innovation. Traditionally organizations have rewarded R&D for patents and other internally-focused accomplishments.

For a technology scouting program to succeed, these reward systems must change. This is especially important as teams are often comprised of individuals that have other responsibilities as well.

At the recent Tech Scouting Summit, speakers agreed that rewarding patents is counter-productive unless you also reward going outside. Overall it is more effective to focus incentives and bonuses on revenue and profit.

They also concurred that the role of the scout should be recognized for its strategic importance and as an organizational stepping stone.

Examples:

  • Kimberly-Clark Health Care offers scouts high visibility and exposure to corporate leaders.
  •  Land O Lakes “Barrier-buster” award is also about visibility — includes a plaque and photo on wall of fame
  •  Unilever has an “OI Award” tied to company objectives
  •  Emerson Therm-o-Disc awards $500 for innovation accomplishments and publicizes in the company newsletter.

In all instances, being on the scouting team is treated as a prestigious role which increases credibility and internal marketability.

Simple thank you’s and appreciation also go a long way (refer to article 3 excerpt from Wall Street Journal interview with George Buckley, CEO of 3M). However all agreed that more could be done to create tangible incentives.

Equally important is incentivizing and rewarding external partners. When forming an alliance, set mutual objectives and metrics which are rewarded when met. If you are working with universities, understand that their motivation is making an impact and pushing new frontiers. Being able to publish research results is key.

If you are soliciting ideas through a website or intermediaries such as InnoCentive, make sure your prizes are competitive (the number of submissions you receive is an indication).

Last but not least, remember to acknowledge and reward ideas that do not get accepted, both internally and externally. For example, P&G refers external submissions to other companies that may have a better, more immediate fit.

Always create good will and respect – what goes around will come around in the world of open innovation.

This article published in conjunction with MRT’s workshop series:
Technology Scouting to Accelerate Innovation – Implementing an External Sourcing Program – check our website for the latest dates and locations of this popular seminar.

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