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The Washington Post has a fascinating story about the Ford Motor Company, understanding that companies are defined by the degree to which they innovate within and even outside their space, has "implemented a number of internal initiatives, from altering its financial incentives for inventors to creating companywide innovation challenges." The goal is to generate as much innovation and disruption from within the company as possible.

"The efforts appear to be paying off," the Post writes. "As of Tuesday, Ford is poised to have more U.S. utility patents granted this year than any other automaker, according to agency data ... These patents include a flying drone that acts as a lookout for your self-driving car. A filter that purifies air conditioner condensation into drinkable water. And, more recently, an electric wheelchair that loads itself into the car."

To a great extent, these patents have been generated by a workforce that has been turned into inventors: "Bold innovations traditionally come from companies’ research and development departments, where highly trained engineers bring their education and experience to bare on a problem." Now, Ford "has embraced the notion that good ideas can come from anywhere in the company and has encouraged employees to step forward."

And they are incentivized: "Employees with promising ideas are gifted a three-month membership to TechShop, a maker space with computers and other equipment that can be used to turn ideas into prototypes. The experience of bringing an idea into existence often helps employees to discover and work through problems they didn’t detect on paper."

As a result, "More than 5,500 Ford employees put forth ideas so far this year, including about 2,200 first-time inventors, according to the company. More than 4,000 first-time inventors have submitted ideas since January 2015."

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
While such a program cannot solve every problem or conquer every mountain, the story does show how companies can use the power of their workforces in a positive, even unexpected fashion. Can you imagine if every company utilized its employees in this way? It is like the ultimate in helping them feel like assets rather than like costs and liabilities.