I couldn’t figure out why my name was left off the credits for the product. To make a long story short, I went to my immediate manager, like a good little clone should do, and asked his assistance in finding out why I was so absent from the credit. His first reply was for me to make sure I have proof in writing next time. Proof I had, and lots of it. The only thing I didn’t have was the support to actually have it matter my name was on the idea.
I showed my manager the product design sketches, emails and forms I had to fill out and sign when I submitted the design to the innovations manager.
He cocked his head a bit to the side, raised his eyebrows and shrugged, wearing a smile that said, “sorry, but it’s not going to happen.”
Now, this may sound petty and self-serving, but I assure you it was only self-serving. One reason to be such a way, which is always the primary reason anyone should do this, is the anonymity of the corporate world. Had I been named as the designer of the successful product, my visibility with the CEO and other executives would put me on the radar, earn high level allies and have some strength where my manager was concerned.
In a corporation, where your performance reviews are your lifeline to employment at the company, it helps to have a few blips on the résumé, especially where innovation work is concerned. It may not just be you who suffers from idea stealing. In most companies, you sign away all ideas you have in your head while employed there, so credit may just not be in the cards. Think about how innovative ideas are received by management.
- There is something else you have to consider when your ideas are not acknowledged, but what is it?
- Are anyone’s ideas openly applauded? Privately, or via email? Maybe it’s just the company culture… based on the worst civilizations across the globe.
- Are your ideas truly being stolen? Is one person, or group of people recognized for their work on the project or does no one get the credit?
- There were only 128 places on the idea documentation that has your name on it, including a giant watermark. That is not enough to fight a situation where someone else is saying that he/she never saw your name on the idea.
Keep in mind how fast an idea can get away from YOU. When you bring up an idea at a meeting and it goes around the room with other people commenting and building upon, or tearing down your idea, it has become community property. Hope someone took note that you brought it up.
Don’t count on others to sing your praises
At the aforementioned firm, people clawed their way through innovation, trying to catch the attention of the owner/CEO. Having him pat you on the back meant you were going places. Some people went to one place and other people went somewhere they never thought they’d go — into obscurity.
There were people who were mentioned in the corporate newsletter for the patented design they had just done, some people received a card and $50 gift certificate and others, usually the people who carried the idea from a designer, up to board management, got unnamed bonuses they would spend on fancier cars to run us down in the employee parking lots. Stop signs do not apply to management!
Unless you are handed a project and told to “do your thing,” then everything will be group dynamics. Going away from the herd to create something does not give you a reputation for being brilliantly creative. The unfortunate view from corporate robots is that by creating self-initiated projects, you are somehow not doing the job for which you were hired. Crazy? Yes! Welcome to how the corporate world functions.
It’s a bit different at smaller design firms. The entire staff will see you in action. You can throw out a brilliant idea at a brainstorm and stop the action, making you the MVP of the meeting, or figure out how other people’s suggestions could dovetail or build upon your idea and give them credit for it as the idea is explained. Even in smaller situations, and probably more than a huge corporate environment, being a team player is the number one consideration to be hired. Prima donnas and emotional wrecks are usually not tolerated for team situations… they must wait for an executive position with a corporation!
But, we must create or wither away
The best scenario in building a reputation for great creative ideas is to be invited to brainstorming sessions and humbly build a reputation for being a valuable team member. That is what the corporate structure wants of its employees. And then there’s the human part of the problem — people get jealous and feel purposely left out and steal.
When you’re just a powerhouse of ideas and must spill them out or explode, make a powerhouse of a champion from someone in management. Going above your manager’s head will upset him or her. Make people in charge your close ally for innovation. Discuss it with them. Use “we” and “us” when referring to anything.
I’ve said this before, so I will inevitably be saying it again, but, of all the suggestions I’ve made or heard, the best is; it’s better to release a little bit of innovation in your own work everyday, then to hit people with something big and different, right out of the blue. That helps the company, your manager, and you, of course. Allowing others to ride along with a big or small innovation may be needlessly sharing credit but in the long run, you make these people your allies and when it comes to the right recognition, they will take you along with them…because you do things that make them look good.
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