Competition; is it necessary for innovation?

Some managers are very much driven to make their employees compete with each other. Does this stimulate innovation?

The short answer to this is: NO! Competition can actually harm innovation. When people are competing with their colleagues, they will be inclined to keep their cards close to their chests. This means there will be less exchange of ideas. Knowing that cross-pollination can spark the most wonderful ideas, this is an effect you should consider when you think about announcing an idea contest.

Of course, there is also a more nuanced answer. Some people thrive in a competitive environment. It keeps the job interesting and challenging. It keeps them sharp. Furthermore, it’s not unreasonable to reward employees that put forward good ideas. If you want to stimulate people to share their ideas, you certainly want to show some appreciation.

However, be careful turning ideation into a competition. Make sure you don’t limit idea sharing. If people start seeing their colleagues as competitors they will no longer openly discuss their ideas, afraid the ‘competition’ will steal their idea.

Ideas should be ‘public’ and building on ideas should be easy. One obvious way to achieve this is by using idea management software, like TalkFreely or Innovation Factory. This way, others can react and build on the concept while it is perfectly clear who came up with the initial idea. Both original ideas and valuable additions can be rewarded.

Luckily, rewarding valuable ideas is not necessarily a costly endeavour. After all, the best reward for any good idea is:



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