Innovation Examples at Work and How They Drive Success

Constant innovation is necessary to adapt to the changing business world. Whether it’s social media changing the way we use the internet or the COVID-19 pandemic tearing down all our ideas about office culture, the world is constantly evolving. Businesses that innovate survive. Those that don’t…don’t.

But how do you actually innovate? One way is to learn by example. Here are three of our favorite innovation examples at work—we hope they inspire you and your team to get innovating. 

Why Is Innovation So Important?

Innovation has a twofold effect:

  1. Innovation gives companies an external competitive edge through the new ideas they can implement. 
  2. Innovation improves the internal culture by engaging employees, building enthusiasm, and encouraging self-improvement.

It can even be said that innovation does more than provide a competitive advantage—it can help your company survive while others do not. Innovation is often necessary for companies to adapt to and overcome the challenges that come with economic or social change.


Innovation Examples at Work

All of us innovators are trying to come up with the next big thing. But hey, doing it all on your own is a lot of work. So, we are going to let you in on one of our little secrets, shhhh, let your employees take the reigns like these companies did.


15 Percent Time at 3M

At 3M, employees are encouraged to set aside 15 percent of their workday to pursue innovative ideas of their choice. Many companies today, including Google, HP, and other tech companies, offer similar initiatives, but 3M introduced 15 percent time in the 1950s—a time when giving your employees that kind of freedom was a pretty radical innovation.

The classic case of an innovation example at work, a scientist named Spencer Silver used his 15 percent time at 3M to invent the Post-It Note. The idea really picked up traction when another 3M employee, Art Fry, realized its usefulness and helped to sell the idea to management.

What can we learn from the Post-It Note and 3M’s 15 percent time? Sometimes, the best way to cultivate innovation at work is to give your employees the permission and resources to innovate, experiment, and make mistakes. In the words of 3M President William McKnight:

“Hire good people and leave them alone. Delegate responsibility and encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.”


Lego Ideas

Lego has managed to enshrine itself as one of the most beloved toys in the world. Since manufacturing the first Lego bricks in 1949, how has the company managed to retain such popularity?

Well, Lego engages its customers through its Lego Ideas site, letting community members share ideas for new designs and themes for Lego sets. And it’s not just a place to engage customers and let them share their creations—Lego Ideas is intended to crowdsource ideas for new product releases. When an idea reaches ten thousand supporters, Lego evaluates it and, and if selected, releases it under the Lego Ideas product label. Community members who submit a successful idea also get monetary compensation.

Many successful Lego sets have come out of the Ideas site since its introduction in 2011. Some examples include sitcom-themed sets like the Big Bang Theory, Friends, and Seinfeld that appeal to Lego’s adult fans. Others include:

  • A playable grand piano
  • The house from Home Alone complete with traps
  • A three-foot-tall Saturn V rocket

The Ideas community provides Lego with a steady flow of free ideas that people already want to buy. This crowdsourced approach to innovation is one of the key factors behind the success of Lego’s brand, helping them stay at the top of the market after decades of making essentially the same toy.


Facebook Hackathons

Facebook is another company that crowdsources innovation examples at work—but from its employees rather than its customers. Facebook organizes regular “hackathons” for their employees where they generate new ideas and test them. These hackathons are open to anyone within the company.

The hackathon aims to get employees to work on something they don’t usually do in their daily jobs to help them think outside the box. It also provides fresh eyes, ears, and perspectives by allowing employees from different departments and teams to work on anything they want. For example, developers and product designers tend to have certain ways of thinking, so it makes things interesting when you get ideas from other departments like finance and marketing. It also helps build cross-functional relationships and team spirit throughout the company.

And while all this is happening, employees are generating innovative products and ideas for the company. Many core Facebook features found their origins in these hackathons—for example, the like button, live chat, and the Facebook timeline. The pride flag feature, which allowed users to modify their profile pictures to support the LGBTQ community, was created at a Facebook hackathon in 2015 by two interns. It caught on quickly and was implemented for public use, and the functionality has been expanded since then to allow users to modify their pictures to support a variety of causes.


Drive Innovation at Work from the Bottom up With rready

Innovation starts with a culture and an innovation management process. Fortunately for you, we’ve perfected the tool for the job—our proven KICKBOX methodology for innovation and idea management.

Adopting an integrated innovation management process like KICKBOX makes a statement to your teams that you’re committed to fostering innovation examples at work like the ones above. It’s the first step toward creating a kickass culture of innovation and creativity in your business. Implement the KICKBOX method, harness its power, and use it to your advantage!

rready helps customers identify and implement their most innovative ideas with our KICKBOX program. We are committed to helping our clients get the most out of their innovation programs, working hands-on to help ensure the greatest benefits possible. 

Contact us today