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Compensation Cafe: How to Spread Innovation

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Innovations that spread quickly share an element of face-to-face diffusion, a process that can be amplified through human-centered technology and practices.

Not all innovations are created equal. Some good ideas take their time to spread, even within a single company, while other ideas are adopted at lightning speed across companies and even industries. Figuring out what explains that difference has been a challenge for companies looking to move with more flexibility and agility.

Some valuable insights might come from the field of medicine, according to a New Yorker article published a few years back. In that article, the key differentiator was the presence of social diffusion, or “people talking to people.”

As I write in this recent post on Compensation Cafe, this can “complement and ultimately amplify other diffusion processes (such as technology or incentives) to fundamentally shape the norms or culture of an organization towards new ways of thinking and behaving.”

The challenge that many companies struggle with is the adoption of innovation across various areas of the business, ensuring that what is known and practiced in one group is also known and practiced in another. Solutions that emphasize human-centered technology and empowerment rather than compliance are well-suited to address this challenge. As I write in the full post, which you can read here:

This is certainly a growing trend across varied areas like performance reviews, feedback, and social recognition- spheres where technology is enabling a better quantity and quality of human-to-human interaction. In these cases, emphasis is placed less on prescriptive rules and more on exemplars of positive development and achievement.
These types of solutions offer a new view of the organization, where the spread of innovation through “people talking to people [through technologies and processes]” is strengthened and pockets of excellence grow.

The ultimate goal of these solutions is to ensure that valuable innovations and insights can self-propagate across the entire organization, through the existing conduits formed by employees’ relationships and collaborations with one another.

How would you set up your company to thrive based on the spread of innovation?