Innovation is in the blood by Andy Beddows


ideasUK Roll of Honour (opens pdf doc)

Anyone who has had contact with the world of innovation in recent years will be all too familiar with the well known beacons of innovation; Wind-up radio, Dyson and Post-Its to name but a few, which are but the tip of a very big iceberg. Let’s face it, if there is one thing we, the human race, are good at its innovation. But what goes on ‘below the water line’, below the whiz bang inventions? Where can you find a perfect cross section of innovation at a day to day level across private and public sectors in, say, the UK?

Well, recently I had the task of updating the ideasUK Roll of Honour and rather than just adding the latest award winners to the list I took a wider look at the whole document. Firstly you realise how many big names in all sectors have given their names to innovation awards over the years and how many more have employees who have received those awards. There are also some hidden stories in there too.

For many years the Customer Service Trophy was subtitled the ‘John Drayton Memorial Award.’ Although never a winner of a national trophy, John Drayton was an engine driver from Wales and a prolific suggester, if not the most prolific suggester in the then British Rail. Not only did he make many suggestions but a high percentage of them were used. His fame was such that he was invited to address a full conference of Suggestion Scheme Managers in 1993 to share his passion.

Another year a police constable from Manchester won the Idea of the Year for a video he created to help students stay safe.  he following year he returned to tell delegates all about his idea and how winning had further boosted its impact.

The changing logos for some awards show that the relevant business was changing but the focus remained on encouraging innovation. Some other names fade away as the result of mergers and break ups. Some vanish after a ‘policy’ change on ideas programmes only to pop up again a few years later when listening to the workforce is back on the agenda.

Another aspect of what you see in this document are organisations that are using ideasUK’s shared expertise to enhance their own activities (both improving their programme and using its awards as an extension of their own internal recognition) sharing their experience with others and keeping abreast of developments in the world of innovation collection. Keeping such activity fresh and relevant can be a struggle as internal experience is often limited and needed external input is the stimulus that is achieved through such liaisons.

I will end with another iceberg analogy. What you see in this document is another iceberg tip. There are many more organisations out there (below the water line), public/private, small/large, that actively encourage innovation through suggestion schemes and other means and who similarly enjoy the 5:1 Return On Investment typical of this business boosting practice. Hopefully one day they too will share their highs and lows with others.

All in all it proves without doubt that innovation is in the blood!

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