Factor 7: Use of Career Ladders

This factors concerns the use of career ladders and recognition of innovators.

Factor extremes as measured in survey:

The organization offers no career ladders with appropriate power and titles for innovators


The organization offers a career ladder with appropriate power and titles for innovation

Overview to restructuring initiatives

Innovators are often seen, at least in some corporations, as strange people; tolerated but kept well hidden and rewarded only rarely. Not a formula for success! At the next stage of enlightenment, corporations assume that innovators are like everybody else and therefore should not be singled out for special recognition. Both of these approaches are not usually adopted by innovative companies. Innovative companies recognize a certain special quality in people who innovate and choose to recognize such by providing rewards and incentives. There are many approaches to providing such rewards but the key is to make them significant and explicit. Providing dual career paths for those who aspire to be creative and risk taking but do not seek higher level management positions can be a part of a recognition program which results in a meaningful future for innovators.

Possible Initiatives to Modify and Improve the Culture for Innovation

Form a corporate venture capital group and integrate into the planning process
Recognizing innovators could take the form of setting up a separate venture capital group with the use of corporate funds. The new venture group can provide a window to new technologies and markets, and act as a possible source of acquisitions and investments. Alternatively one can form a venture capital partnership as one of several investors and provide innovative staff to make things happen. The separate group would operate in a reasonable independent manner from the parent and would, for those assigned to it, be seen as a mark of recognition.

Set up a new venture division

Along lines similar to the establishment of a venture capital group, one could also set up a new venture division which could be a permanent nursing ground for new business products or ideas. The division has the status of an operating division but with different performance expectations more consistent with new ventures. The new venture can be spun– in to other parts of the corporation after start-up and an early success. Management typically initially comes from within the parent company and may return to other positions in the parent following spin-off or spin-in. Again, such action would be seen as providing a special recognition for innovators.

Establish a separate career path for innovators who do not want to become part of management per se.

As part of establishing incentives for innovators, it is important to recognize that not all innovators want to climb the ‘corporate ladder’; rather their interest may well be to carry on innovating—but they do want the recognition. It is essential to make it clear that there are many career ladder possibilities within the corporation. All are valued.

Have a business model that is a recognizable and rewarding route for innovators

Having a business model for innovation can be instructive to all aspiring innovators. Knowing that certain steps are likely to be followed for ideas as they develop will save a lot of time in having to come up with a new ‘approach’ for each major initiative. Knowing ahead of time that at certain stages, a different organization structure could be brought into play, that funding will arrive in a prescribed manner, and that compensation will follow, etc. will encourage those to stick to making the innovation a success rather than worrying about how the pie is to be divided. Have a no-surprise business model for innovators.