Employee innovation: Twitter users have better ideas

New research suggests creative power of exposure to ideas and people.

How do people come up with new ideas?  New research published in MIT Sloan Management Review explores the links between the use of technology mediated networks and employee innovation. 

Using a combination of Organisational Network Analysis and interviews, the researchers explored employees’ twitter networks.   The findings indicate that exposure to a diverse social network can result in higher quality, innovative ideas.

However, it is not simply exposure to diverse networks that helps support the generation of innovative ideas. People also need to focus on enhancing their ability to assimilate and exploit information.

Idea scouting

An idea scout is someone who looks outside of the organisation to bring in new ideas.  Respondents stated they were using Twitter to discover best practices from industry experts; and being introduced to productivity tools by early adopters.  Interestingly, several respondents noted that they were looking to identify and follow/listen to people whose ideas and opinions were not their own or who were outside their 'work comfort zone'. 

Other tactics mentioned in the research included regular pruning of Twitter networks to monitor relevance and account activity. 

Idea curating and sharing

Several respondents mentioned how important it is to have a strategy for sharing Twitter content with the appropriate internal stakeholders. These people see their role as sifting through Twitter content, analysing and interpreting it and then sharing it appropriately.  Others disseminated content to a broader company audience, using blogging or social dashboard tools. Other respondents were such champions of Twitter that they were training colleagues in how to use the tool effectively.

Innovation at Waitrose

Supermarket chain Waitrose has been piloting the use of collaborative innovation software Wazoku to capture ideas and innovation from frontline staff.  The project (Partner Ideas) has already generated ideas which have transformed processes and produced thousands of pounds of savings.

Sources: MIT Sloan Management Review (The report is free to read for members and membership is free); Retail Times.