Employee Engagement; Just One Choice

by Edward Henkler on August 12, 2014

I recently learned of a program which is conducted annually by a division in Thomson Reuters. It is called “Just One Thing” and it’s a very creative way to drive employee engagement. “Just One Thing” follows a pitch and ballot format. Teams come together from across the company and have an annual opportunity to pitch a transformative idea. The only limitations are that the pitch be no more than 10 minutes, the project must be completed within 9 months, and only one idea can be chosen each year. At the end of the presentations, each of the participants puts a mark on their favorite idea and the winner is simply determined by which idea receives the most votes.

 Just One Thing (Employee Engagement)

It is a fairly simple concept with benefits that far exceed the invested effort. Merely conducting the program drives employee engagement (especially if your idea happens to be the winner). It doesn’t stop there, though. This forum facilitates cross-functional and cross-business area networking. The collegial and interactive environment eliminates silos, facilitates networking, and establishes connections which would never be formed otherwise. The concept of only choosing one idea has a number of secondary effects. Understanding the relative value a cross-company team assigns to your idea can be enlightening. We all tend to think of our area as the most important and this process is a potent reminder that other areas may be deemed more important by an audience of your peers. There are inevitable lessons in how to effectively pitch an idea. The setting also provides a forum to showcase rising stars, which can be very helpful when selecting the “top 10%” at annual appraisal time.

I inadvertently uncovered one other benefit of cross-functional connections.  I’m a big fan of “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.  Its basic premise is that businesses should shift away from the red ocean of competition to the blue ocean where no competition exists.  A simple example is NetJets which operates in the blue ocean between corporate jets and first/business class commercial travel.  One of my business colleagues is an experienced marketer and couldn’t understand why I found such an obvious observation so impactful.  The answer….marketing isn’t my business.  Cross-functional networking exposes us to other ways of thinking and solving problems.

“Just one thing” drives innovation and creativity while increasing employee engagement. Sounds like a win-win to me. How does your company drive employee engagement and innovation?

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