Like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which founded skunk works, a hands on technology laboratory where IT, engineering, and others play openly and freely with hot new consumer technologies.
The concept is simple; anything that looks like it could be innovative in the public sector is purchased for use in the skunk works lab for employees to play with. This has allowed NASA to get ahead of the technology curve, and create innovative and new technology combinations.
But what their finding is surprising. Companies who focus on play and innovation rather than just production, have a higher rate of employee retention, and have a better company culture, than their boring counterparts.
Other companies following suite find the same thing, that when employees are given time to play and explore, innovation occurs, which has fantastic results for the company.
Should you let your employees play more? Yes and here’s why.
When you let your employees play, you are allowing them to engage and actively develop their creative problem solving capabilities. This results in better solutions and crisis management when real world problems occur.
Creative employees also deliver creative solutions to common concerns and problems, making for a better product or service, and in turn helping your customers in the long run.
Particularly in tech related fields, when employees play with new technology, they really learn the product and how it works, which allows them to provide better solutions. Instead of just guessing based on information they think they know, they truly learn how the product works, learning that returns with them to their jobs,
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empowering them to help others better.
Companies that employ skunk works type programs find that their employee turnover is low, because of the job satisfaction that results because of a sense of accomplishment. Often, this is enough to keep even the best and brightest of stars, even when offers of higher pay or a better title, because they are in a fun, rewarding, enriching environment.
If you’ve ever wanted your company to be more innovative, and ahead of the curve, consider launching a skunk works type program at your company. Your employees and customers will thank you for it.
Have you ever rolled out a skunk works style program? What were your findings?