I had an interesting experience in a well-known retail store the other day. A great example of not leveraging employee networks for innovation.
I had downloaded their mobile app, which was quite nice. Mainly, though, to get a discount.
When it came to pay, I had a great conversation with the person working the checkout.
"How are you finding the app?" she asked. I gave her some feedback and then asked her the same. She gave me a detailed reply that told me the developers had obviously not thought about her experience when creating the app. She also had some very neat ideas to improve both the employee and customer experience of the app and more generally. She was a super-responsive employee.
"How do you pass on this feedback?" I asked after heading her ideas. "Well, I can tell my manager, who might pass it onto the area manager. But, really, what's the point?" I sympathised - it's all too familiar. Disconnented companies, top-down companies - where innovation goes to die.
What a wasted opportunity to loop employee networks into a crowdsourced development opportunity. Who talks to customers the most? Who works with your app the most? Who can continually get feedback in a conversational, empathetic way? Your front line staff.
It doesn't matter how many cool design labs your development team run, or how many post-it notes end up on the wall. If your company doesn't tap into their innovation networks, it's another Innovation opportunity lost.
Funnily enough, she had enough authority to decide what counted as "t-shirt" for the promotional deal of the day. Or was it she wasn't given any clarity or a place to ask?