In this article, we will look at how to identify and understand employee contributions, and learn how to work with idea generators, evaluators, and activators.

The key to recovering from a business crisis is creating new value—whether it be new products or services, improving processes to be more efficient and save money, or identifying and eliminating waste. As you are looking for opportunities to do one or all of these things, look to the team of resident innovators you already have at the ready: your employees.

The members of your team possess a unique advantage—by being on the frontlines, interacting with your customers, and executing processes every day, they have innate insights to create value in your organization, as well as the ability to execute on new ideas. After all, that is why you hired them.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only few people in your organization should be part of the recovery process, innovating for the future and for recovery now. Everyone is an innovator. It’s just a matter of using their talents at the right stage of value creation.

People and Ideas

It is important to understand that each employee contributes to value creation differently. For example, there will people on your team who respond in spades when you ask for ideas or identification of opportunities. Others will not enjoy ideation or seem to have no original ideas to contribute. This is fine! People have different relationships with ideas. Here are the three types of idea innovators you will see in your organization:

  1. Idea Generators. These employees are the visionaries. They are the people who see problems and opportunities before anyone else. They hear one idea, and soon they come back with 50 more. In fact, they are always coming up with new ideas. These people tend to be extroverts, but they are not always. Idea generators tend to focus on the “what” of the situation which acts as stimuli for visioning, imagination, creativity and ultimately generating ideas.
  1. Idea Evaluators. These employees may not have originated the idea, but they have the ability to take the idea, think through the details, and then relate it to a problem or opportunity that the idea generators may not have even considered. Idea evaluators tend to focus on the “how” of the idea by asking questions, analyzing data, and having deep, thoughtful discussions. They tend to stimulate others to come up with even more ideas. They live in a world of testing and develop a deeper relationship with an idea. They are intellectually driven and tend to be introverts.
  1. Idea Activators. These employees may not have come up with the idea or worked on the details to define the “how,” but that doesn’t matter to them. They are ready to do something with that idea. They take action quickly to make the idea happen. They are able to gather what is needed to make the idea a reality. These people tend to focus on moving forward and getting results by doing something swiftly.

In order to achieve recovery, you need all three types of idea innovators, and you need to understand how every person contributes to the idea ecosystem in your organization. This is key.

To identify which types of idea innovators you have on your team, you must consider the talents, skills and capacity of each person. Through my work with leaders, I’ve noted that while many say they care about their people, a majority don’t care enough to go into the depth of understanding these aspects which are key to better people management and ultimately better business results.

Innovation talent and skills can be easily understood using assessments. Using the Innovation Fitness Assessment™, which produces an innovation score for each of the six stages of innovation, we can see where each employee’s talents and skills lie, and where they will excel when it comes to the three types of idea innovation.

Understand Innovation Talent

Innovation talent is made up of:

  • Behaviors: Tendencies that enable a specific type and level of performance
  • Motivations: Natural interests that dictate the level of alignment and engagement to things, people or tasks
  • Passions: Intrinsic, emotional interest in things, people, or tasks

Understand Innovation Skills

Innovation skills are composed of:

  • Technical Skills: Subject or specialty skills for carrying out specific complex tasks
  • Achieving Skills: Skills that drive action and higher performance
  • Relating Skills: Skills that enable and empower collaboration of people
  • Thinking Skills: Skills related to thinking, processing information, forming assumptions, and solving problems

Measure Innovation Capacity

Once you have the Innovation Fitness Scores™ of everyone on your team, analyzing innovation capacity becomes even easier. You will be able to understand the outcomes and expectations of idea innovation, as well as the contributions you want from each employee.

This quantitative measurement allows you to understand what is driving each of your employees and if they have the right skills (besides technical skills) for the job you want them to do. You can see the gaps between the outcomes you want them to generate versus their individual capacity. Once you do this, you can take the right action and even place them in the right category as an innovator. Then creating new value becomes much more natural for them.

You can also measure qualitatively by gauging your employees’ interests and passions using an actual project. What subject do they seem to gravitate toward? What type of skills do they rely on the most?

Invite Everyone to Create Value

How do you put the data you have collected in measuring innovation capacity into use as a leader? You can design specific jobs for people or even add specific job responsibilities to certain individuals.

A different approach is identifying a potential opportunity or problem that needs to be solved in the organization. Next, invite employees to participate in solving that problem; make it open and use it as an opportunity to identify which employees will commit to the opportunity. Encourage people to self-invite on the project. The power of self-selection is powerful and incredibly validating.

For example, if you are looking to improve customer satisfaction at your call center, you might create a project for this goal. Say you want to go from 75% positive ratings to 95%, and that you want to do it in six months.

To start, you need to invite idea generators (from across the organization, in every department) to come up with ideas. Allow these employees to look for technical solutions, process solutions, people solutions, solutions within the organization, and solutions across industries. Let this group get creative. Next, you want to invite your idea evaluators to take the ideas, cross examine them, synthesize them and come down to the final solution. Now that you have the solution decided, get your self-selected idea activators to develop, deliver, measure and launch the idea. Make it easy for everyone to invite others who they believe can contribute in any of the areas.

By allowing employees to identify where they want to participate in the value creation process, you will see more inventive and impactful results. Companies make a big mistake when they see their people as simply the doers of the work as prescribed by management. Employees become demotivated when managers come to them only to do and not to think. If you don’t ask them for a contribution, you could be missing out on the next big innovation. If you do not give them opportunities to engage freely with like-minded individuals, you are missing on getting your employees to commit deeper into helping the organization grow.

About the Author

Dr. Evans Baiya is an internationally recognized and trusted guide to business leaders and innovators. Using his 6-stage process, he helps the businesses identify, define, develop, verify, commercialize, and scale ideas so the businesses and individuals can learn, grow, and thrive.  He is the co-author of the award-winning book, The Innovator’s Advantage and co-creator of The Innovator’s Advantage Academy, a detailed step-by-step innovation training. Learn more at

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