Reward insight or reward ideas? Both and…

This is a tricky question.

First of all, insights are different from ideas. Insights are more important than ideas. Breakthrough businesses are build on insights, not ideas. Ideas come after the insight. Yet in innovation circles we constantly hear that we should reward people for coming up with ideas. What about rewarding people for insights?

An insights is an undeniable truth. A pain that a large number of people have and agree on. A brainstorm to come up with potential solutions to that pain would then be called upon.

But let’s also consider that sometimes good ideas originate out of no insight whatsoever.

For example, last week I stopped by the butcher shop to get some New York (I’m a meat freak!) to cook. While standing there I started thinking about how every butcher shop looks and smells the same. They all have what looks like the same signs hanging outside their windows with the name of the meat written on it with bright colors.

Don’t you think there are ways to innovate here?

Of course there are, and boy did I have ideas. But, before I started getting excited and asked myself if there’s are any butcher shops around the world that’s not a ‘butcher shop’. That’s different…

Once I got back to my computer, I googled butcher shop and voila. I clicked on the first result and was introduced to The Meat House. Which from I can see and read looks like the type of butcher shop where I would spend some time. It’s definitely not the typical butcher shop. I mean they have an online following on Twitter and Facebook for crying out loud!

I think it’s all good and all, but I still think there’s an opportunity to innovate…

Anyways, this isn’t a post about butcher shops. It’s about how to innovate. I just gave you an example of someone who didn’t go out hunting for insights first before having ideas. My ideas came out of a personal displeasure of asking: Why do people put up with this crap?

And I do this a lot.

Which brings me to my next point: Let’s also reward displeasure in our people.

Dissatisfied people make the best innovators

Seriously. Think about it. Dissatisfied people are already motivated to do something about whatever it is they’re pissed off at. We just have to find out what they’re pissed off at and help them fix it. That’s the reward.

Sound too simple? Heck, I will go as far as saying that if people are not displeased by something then we have a serious problem.

Sure, the vast majority of people just want to have a job to pay the bills, that’s until they find something meaningful that activates the fire inside. Something meaningful usually means something they want to do because they don’t like what currently exists. Something meaningful can also take the form of something they’re fed up with.

So yes, let’s reward blue sky ideas and precise insights, but also let’s reward dissatisfaction.

One of the main problems I see with rewarding dissatisfied people is that (and I know more than a few of them) they have lots of passion but not a lot of discipline. At the end of the day, innovation is about execution and this requires discipline. Not the ‘follow the rule book’ discipline, but the consistent type of discipline of staying the course. And this is where a lot of passion is left squandered.

We also have to make the distinction between someone who is simply dissatisfied and just complains versus someone who actually wants to do something about it. So we must reward a bias for action, not for complaining.

In conclusion…

Ideas can come from a combination of blue sky thinking, precise insights and personal displeasure. And I know I’m contradicting myself but in my opinion the best ideas, for the most part, are born from dissatisfaction. And if your organization’s mission is to fix some problem you and a lot of people are already fed up with, passion should not be an issue.

What do you think, how do you reward displeasure?

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