What happens when you give your employees free rein to innovate?

What happens when you give your employees free rein to innovate?

At the end of 2014, the entire staff of IDBS were given the opportunity to spend a day innovating. And when I say the entire staff, we mean everyone: from the front desk team all the way up to the VPs. We called this idbsCreate and the scope was simple:

‘Make things better’

Things? What are ‘things’? Well, we didn’t want to limit people to only thinking about our products. We wanted to go bigger and think outside the box – could we improve our work life, our environment, the world?

About a month before idbsCreate, we sent out a request for ideas. If you had an idea then all you had to do was record a short video promoting it and use that to recruit a team of helpers. And this is where the innovation actually started. To get things going, I recorded a couple of ideas using my webcam, which reinforced that:

a)  I’m not photogenic

b)  I would never get a job in TV

Every other video that came in was better. Every. Single. One. They had soundtrack, animations – you name it! And they came from everywhere within the company – it just goes to show that you can never tell where a great idea is going to come from.

And then came the day of idbsCreate. The coffee was flowing, pizza was eaten and it was a hive of activity. But, we only had a single day in which to produce our idea – how much could we actually get done?

The following day each team stood up in front of a panel of judges and showed their results. I was expecting lots of hand waving and napkin sketches, but what I saw blew me away. We had polished presentations, we had mock-ups and we had working applications. I’d even go so far as to say some of it was near release-quality.

I’m not going to go over the ideas themselves as I couldn’t do them justice in a blog post, but they spanned everything from helping students, through to product changes all the way to improving our company culture. And we finished on a high note with a specially written birthday song celebrating our 25th birthday!

So, what happens when you give your employees free reign to innovate? Well, they knock your socks off and you realise how lucky you are to be working with such fantastic people.