HEROes and Innovation: Is Your Company Ready?

May 16, 2011
5 Min Read

Previously, I wrote a blog post on how to identify your company’s HEROes and how to manage your company’s HEROes. As a quick recap, HEROes are Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives; employees who feel empowered to solve customer problems by acting resourcefully, including using any type of technology necessary, whether it is currently sanctioned by the company or not. But no matter how talented or motivated they are, HEROes can’t successfully act alone. Today’s post focus is how to analyze your company’s readiness for HEROes.

As reported in the chapter-article, Is Your Company Ready for HEROes?, Forrester Research conducted a survey 4,364 information workers in U.S. companies which asked two questions: Do you feel empowered? Do you act resourceful? The results of the survey showed four distinct groups of employees, across various organizations:

  • Disenfranchised Employees: 34% try to just do their jobs; very little drive for innovation.
  • Rogue Employees: 14% attempt to find creative solutions; lack company support.
  • Locked-Down Employees: 34% feel empowered; limited by a lack of technology resources.
  • HERO Employees: 21% use new technologies and feel that the company supports them; results in technology innovation.

Note that this distribution is not equal across all companies and all industries. Some companies will have mostly disenfranchised employees while others will see much more than 21% of its workforce comprised of HEROes. The categorization is relevant and useful, however. The authors of the aforementioned article posit that you can encourage HERO employees at your organization by increasing levels of encouragement, guidance, and resources.


Companies must take the first step and provide encouragement in order for workers to feel empowered. Without this encouragement (explicit or implicit), by default the company has disenfranchised employees and an organization that is lacking in innovation. Take a look at the company culture. Examine the management processes. Are they structured in a way that allows for HEROes to bring innovations to the table? What changes need to be made? How can these changes be implemented and communicated to create that encouraging and empowering environment? Note that culture change can take time.


Once the culture of the company is conducive to empowered employees, there is still some risk of chaos, mismanagement of HEROes, or missed opportunities. Management should not only provide encouragement, but also give guidance by communicating strategic imperatives and channeling half-baked ideas toward something more feasible. Without this support, the company is left with rogue employees who are motivated to find innovative and creative solutions for the customers, but are turned away or remain unsuccessful in doing so over time. Over time, these rogue employees either become disenfranchised… or they find a new company that supports their talents.


HEROes need access to technology---technology like QuickBase or other easy-to-use web database software that allows for collaboration and experimentation without causing excessive frustration. Without adequate resources, the company has empowered employees who are limited by the technology. Ask: does the technology available make work easier? Is the IT department viewed as an obstacle to innovation or a partnership that leads to opportunity?

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