And the winner is … companies with contests

What do the following three items have in common:
•    the marine chronometer

•    margarine, and

•    SpaceShipOne?

Each was a winner in contests companies held to promote innovation.

While your Payroll clerk probably isn’t going to cook up an alternative to laser check printing, holding some contests of your own could pay off big.

Pay people to come up with new ideas? Isn’t that what their salary’s for?

Fair enough. But a contest gets energy flowing in a way different from the day to day.
Here’s how you can make them work for you.

Think about it. Few can resist a chance to guess the number of jelly beans in the jar.

You could hold a contest to see which department can pare the most excess spending from its budget.

But you may be better off creating a contest that encourages innovation, one that pushes employees to come up with unexpected and quantifiable solutions to real business problems.

You don’t want to impose too many restrictions. Start by simply assigning categories, such as:

  • best cost-cutting idea
  • best revenue generator, and
  • best streamlining solution.

That way any employee or department can compete.

Offering the winner a small percentage of the money saved or made is a great prize, though many folks are happy to do it for some extra paid time off too.

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