Self-Authorizing Behavior

Is your “bad egg” your best egg?

True innovators are known for breaking the mold. They’re not afraid to ask questions, challenge ideas, or try things a different way. In our theory of innovation, we call this self-authorizing behavior.

While these may seem like admirable traits in theory, they’re often unwelcome in corporate culture. Non-conforming behavior can be seen as a threat — in addition to creating friction, it can interrupt established, effective processes. Sometimes, employees who exhibit self-authorizing behavior are terminated, but often, they choose to leave on their own terms — either to become entrepreneurs or to join an organization that places more importance on creativity and flexibility. For a company, losing a self-authorizer means losing a catalyst for innovation.

How do you keep these valuable, creative individuals on your team?

In order to innovate, a company must nurture its free thinkers. This doesn’t mean you need to install monkey bars in the hallways or throw your dress code out the window. It simply means you need to create an intentional space for self-authorizing behaviors to be welcomed, encouraged, and nurtured.

Innovative companies provide their employees with:

Encourage innovation by providing the time, responsibility, and materials necessary for fostering new ideas and solutions. Whether daily, weekly, or annually, a built-in innovation model gives employees the freedom to create. 3M employees, for example, can spend 15% of their time on chosen innovation projects.

What gets rewarded gets repeated. Encourage innovation by recognizing and rewarding it. This serves not only as reinforcement for the person or team receiving the award, but for other people throughout the company.

Competition can be a great motivator. Bring a venture capital spirit to your firm by celebrating innovation through idea fairs, funding contests, prototype marketplaces, and more. Employees will thrive on the creative energy and be driven to do their best.

Our theory of innovation encourages asking for forgiveness, not permission.

Visit our resources section to learn more about nurturing innovation.