The Idea Driven Blog

Celebrate Ideas

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In an earlier blog I wrote about how even a $5 reward can create problems with employee ideas. This does not mean that front-line ideas shouldn’t be celebrated and people’s contributions recognized. One of my favorite examples that shows some of the benefits of good celebrations come from Normand (Gene) Dunlap and Mike Terry of the Operations Excellence group at Raytheon IIS in Indianapolis, Indiana.

When Gene and Mike were given the task of setting up a high performance idea system, they faced some significant challenges. Among them was a great deal of worker skepticism. The Indianapolis facility had experienced consolidation and had been significantly downsized. Its unionized workforce consisted mostly of highly skilled, long-time workers who were wary of management initiatives, particularly any which focused on productivity improvements that might jeopardize jobs.

In addition to setting up a well-designed idea system and providing good training, Gene and Mike introduced a regular activity intended to create some fun and excitement about the idea system. The first of these activities was Wii bowling. Once a month the entire workforce would gather in a room where one wall was dominated by a row of large flat-panel televisions. It was set up as a Wii bowling alley.

Before bowling could begin, a master of ceremony would announce the overall and team idea performance results for the previous month, and each team was asked to share one implemented idea that its members were particularly proud of and that they thought might benefit others. Then the competition would begin. Scores were recorded and tracked the same way they would be in a regular bowling league, but with one difference. Teams that achieved their minimum monthly goal of implementing one idea per team member had ten extra points added to their scores.

The event has the excitement and energy of a good bowling league. Teams would show up wearing their own custom-made bowling shirts that proudly displaying their teams’ names, and there was a great deal of good-natured competitive banter. The only thing missing was the beer. Scores were posted and tracked for each twelve-month season, at the end of which a special recognition celebration would be held where trophies and awards would be handed out.

The events did an excellent job To keep things fresh, after several years, Gene and Mike exchanged changed Wii bowling with a bean bag toss completion game called “cornhole.”

Recently the Indianapolis Raytheon unit reached a major milestone – 10,000 implemented ideas. They celebrated! 

Dean Schroeder
Dean Schroeder
Dean received his Ph.D. in Strategic Management from the Carlson School at the University of Minnesota, an M.B.A. from the University of Montana, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from theUniversity of Minnesota. He currently serves as the associate dean and director of graduate programs in management at Valparaiso University in Northwest Indiana.

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