Turn Your Social Intranet Into A Clown College

Sean R. Nicholson

While listening to Marketplace yesterday, I heard a great article on a French campaign that is aimed at sparking the entrepreneurial spirit in French workers. According to the piece by John Laurenson, the advertisements feature successful business people in clown outfits and makeup to highlight a new web site at http://www.jesuisunclown.com/ (i am a clown.com). The purpose behind the campaign is to feature successful individuals who have struck out on their own despite others telling them that their ideas were silly.In a time when the French economy needs innovators, the goal is to encourage citizens to risk their pensions and security for the life of an entrepreneur.

The article had me thinking today about employees around the world during these tough economic times and wondering whether employees are encouraged to innovate and share ideas. In the US, we are certainly seeing employees in “hunker and bunker” mode, where they are working hard to keep their jobs in the face of looming corporate cutbacks and downsizing. Unfortunately, when employees are hiding in cubeville, they are usually focusing on just doing their job and not innovating, for fear of looking like “a clown” and risking their employment. The problem with this is that our  global economy needs innovation now more than ever. We need employees to bring new product ideas to the forefront and innovate new service offerings. Managers and executives should be encouraging employees to come up with every new idea possible, regardless of how silly it might initially seem.

As Intranet Professionals, think about whether your Intranet is being used to encourage new ideas. Do you have a campaign asking employees to behave like clowns? Do you have an idea center where employees can submit their ideas and vote on those that they feel would be valuable? Are your executives open to new ideas and are they actively encouraging innovation?

Think about it…products like the slinky, magic eight ball, lava lamps, and mood rings might all probably seemed like silly ideas at the time, yet they have all been significant profit earners for their creators and are still considered by some to be among the top “It” products.

If you’re already finding unique and creative ways to inspire the “clowns” in your organization, please post a comment and share your strategies, tactics, and successes. If you haven’t started an innovation program yet, now might be a great time to start a clown college inside your organization. Your clowns, might just be the key to growing your business and our economy.

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