The hard part was dealing with the ideas for new revenue. Here I needed to be an investment bank--and to teach people with the ideas how to put a business case together. We also had to figure out what to do with good ideas that did not fit our investment criteria. In the end, we reviewed more than 100 ideas, funded about a dozen and had three really big successes. Every idea that got funding at least broke even.
Back in 1999, I had almost no supporting technology. We cobbled together some useful tools, but the majority of the program's management was manual--or at least "analog."
I really wanted a "community participation" platform that would support what I was doing, but there was nothing available beyond e-mail and simple instant messaging. And we got a lot of pushback whenever we tried to impose too much structure on what was essentially a self-directed process.
Today we have social networking tools that can operate within the enterprise, allowing broad, unstructured participation. That's good because we are once again working on a broad innovation agenda to save money on operations and identify new revenue sources.
Once again, I get to shape the program--and, once again, I'm going after the grassroots, broad participation approach. This time, however, I have the tools to do it quickly and let the employees drive the process.
So far, the results look promising. Our pilot social networking efforts, costing well under $100,000, have yielded ideas that will save us more than $2 million in cost avoidance. And we're just getting started.