David Miller
by David Miller
Wed Sep 17th 2008 at 3:20pm UTC

Tapping the Creativity of All Workers

One of reasons we believe the creative economy/society is different from the industrial and agricultural economies is that it relies on a resource (creativity), that every single human being has. The question is whether our institutions and their leaders can provide mechanisms and devices that support the individual in exercising their creativity productively.

Richard often speaks of Toyota’s long-standing practice of listening to workers on the shop floor in generating new ideas and solving problems. The results of this corporate culture (which extends and exists beyond national borders) are obvious.

WSJ writer Phred Dvorak offers a piece on Best Buy and its engagement of its employees (at all levels) in a predictive stock market game whose results are checked against management forecasts. In the online market, called TagTrade, employees can buy stock in answers to questions posed by managers. The price of the stock then reflects the thinking and creativity of Best Buy’s employees. According to the article, the market’s judgment has often performed better than management’s. Here is a snippet.

TagTrade is open to all of Best Buy’s 115,000 U.S. employees. The roughly 2,100 of them who choose to participate get $1 million in fake money to trade for a nine-month period. The top trader in the period wins a $200 gift certificate.

Jeff Severts, a 38-year-old executive who is currently chief of the company’s Geek Squad personal-computer maintenance services, spearheaded development of the market. Mr. Severts says TagTrade helps flag potential problems early.

In January, he asked both his management team and the market to predict sales of a new service package the company was offering for laptop computers. A week before the company began selling the product, the market’s guess was 33% lower than the team’s official sales forecast. It subsequently sank further.

When initial sales figures confirmed the market’s prediction, Mr. Severts ended the offer and began redesigning the service package. He listed a TagTrade stock to gauge the revised package’s chances of starting on time, in mid-September. The stock rose, and Mr. Severts says he took “great comfort from that.” On Sunday, Best Buy started offering the new package.

Best Buy isn’t the only company using prediction markets as a way to tap the knowledge of front-line employees. Web-search giant Google Inc. uses them to solicit forecasts on everything from how many users its Gmail service will attract to whether products will launch on time. Other companies that have experimented with them include General Electric Co., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

Does your company or organization offer avenues for all to provide input? What about your city or region? Are these systems creative, simple to use, and engaging? We do live in an era of cheap communications. Do they ‘invite’ people in? Companies and cities that do this will reap the benefits, while those who don’t will be battling from a position of weakness.

4 Responses to “Tapping the Creativity of All Workers”

  1. Elizabeth M Says:

    I also think that including employees in ways such as this goes a long way toward boosting company morale. It’s a wise move on the part of management to truly encourage their employees to be vocal and respect what they have to say. So many places run on a “need to know” basis, but a little bit of info and inclusion can make people feel like a true part of a company’s heart.

  2. Ralf Lippold Says:

    For employees to put their ideas into play you need a structure of your organization that fosters the exchange of knowledge (partly exchanged in daily stories on what is happening). This will easily lead to further innovations, employee motivation (as they see that their very own ideas are put into play – by themselves in collaboration with others).

    Of course the “old” organizational culture where different departments have their very own goals, bosses are trying to handle the work of their own employees, has a hindering effect (even though the physical structure is in place, such as the new BMW Plant in Leipzig, which is a very positive example of what the future of work can look like!).

    As managers you have to let go -especially the common idea, that workers should work and not think as that is done by engineers and the “big guys”- in order to adapt towards the future challenges that will definitely come.

    A learning organization (of whatever size and branch) is the ultimate goal that we all should work on.

    What are your thoughts?



  3. Daniel Carins Says:

    I just read about this book in a catalogue:

    Creating Knowledge
    Innovation Strategies for Designing Urban Landscapes
    Hille von Seggern Julia Werner Lucia Grosse-Bachle

    Climate change, globalisation, water dynamics and multicultural living are only some of the complex phenomena shaping urban landscape performances today. What does design mean for acting and gaining knowledge in this context? How can innovative design strategies be formulated? What part is played by creativity and understanding?

    Starting out from design processes at the STUDIO URBANE LANDSCHAFTEN experts from philosophy, neurobiology, psychology, art and landscape architecture unfold their perspectives of how creativity and understanding are connected. Examples of internationally renowned landscape architecture indicate how closely the production of ideas, design practice and aesthetic expression are bound up with an understanding and investigation of landscape. Creating Knowledge thus formulates a contemporary, interdisciplinary approach of design.

    It might be quite interesting in relation to this subject.

  4. Tapping the Creativity of All Workers at BestBuy | Ted Eytan, MD Says:

    [...] Tapping the Creativity of All Workers – More interesting happenings at BestBuy – "TagTrade" an electronic stockmarket of employee assessment of management decisions. [...]