Guest post by Robbie Warin.

Next week sees the return of Kin&Co’s Modern Day Wisdom series with ‘The Culture Within’, featuring speakers from ice cream gods Ben&Jerry’s, consumer goods behemoth Danone, purveyors of good quality ready meals Cook, and the public interest focused law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite.

We’ll be focusing on stories about companies that have empowered their employees, through fostering a culture whereby innovations can come from anyone. Too often companies leave the task of generating ideas up to a small team, the specialists and executives whose job is to create new ideas to keep their company ahead of the competition. But if history shows us anything it’s that great ideas come from those that know the company best, those working on the ground at every stage of a company’s operations. Successful companies are those which give the license to innovate to everyone.

We wanted to put the spotlight on a few organisations that are creating new ways of innovating, those which are allowing the space for employees to express new ideas to keep companies one step ahead of the competition.
First flight
Launched in 2015, First Flight gives Sony’s employees the space to experiment and launch their own innovative products, through creating a platform to connect their products with both funders and customers. The platform uses a crowdsourcing function in conjunction with a space to market products to customers. Currently only available in Japan, First Flight has already seen the launch of some incredible products, including a customizable paper watch and ‘MESH’ a piece of hardware allowing anyone to create and control pieces of everyday technology.

Adobe’s Kickstart program is another example of a brand championing employee-led innovation. The initiative gives any employee with an idea a red ‘innovation box’ containing $1000 dollars, a two-day innovation workshop and access to all Adobe’s infrastructure, including the knowledge and guidance of other employees. After developing their idea, employees then pitch to ten executives and, if the idea is accepted, they are given the resources to develop it further and take it to market.

Creative Idea & Suggestion System
One of the early innovators in implementing an employee-led culturehas to be the car manufacturer Toyota. As early as 1951 Toyota set up its ‘Creative Idea and Suggestion System’ (CISS), allowing employees to submit suggestions to improve the manufacturing process, includingnew features and products. 60 years after its inception, the CISS reached the landmark figure of 40 million suggestions, with a peak implementation rate of 98%.

Facilitating employee-led innovation is about creating a culture in which people know they are valued and where they feel their ideas are listened to. In order to create a better world for everyone, change can’t come from just a handful of individuals, we need to make use of the insight and knowledge held by everyone. An important first step is encouraging employees to use their own creativity and ensuring that they are empowered to speak up and be heard.