What is EDI?

An employee innovation is an innovation that is driven from all employees of the company, not just the management, and thus is often indicated as employee-driven innovation (EDI). In this case, the employee works for the organization but is not in a position with a lot of control. 
A clear definition of EDI is important because not every innovation initiated by and employee should be attributed to the EDI concept. Employees that are considered professional innovators, such as marketing and R&D personnel, and decision makers are expected to be innovative and so their ideas do not count as EDIs. There is a big ‘however’ though, when the above mentioned employees come up with innovative idea outside of their primary field, it should be considered and EDI. For example, when a marketing employee comes up with an innovative idea regarding the complaint handling procedures, than this can be considered an EDI. In summary, an idea is considered an EDI when the employee works on it outside the boundaries of his primary job.

All types of innovations (product, service, technology, and market) and all types of newness (radical- incremental) are considered EDI as long as they meet the criteria regarding who did them, and as long as they breach the existing paradigm and routines. The ‘regular’ employees have a positive impact due to their knowledge of the operative processes and their creative capabilities.

The innovative process..

Each type of innovation has a different process. Most innovative process starts with the idea generating, followed by the tweaking phase after which it is designed and put into the market. This is also the same for innovations that come from the companies employees, but the extra phase that is often necessary consists of convincing the rest of the innovation.

Most employee driven innovations can be defined as product or service improvement innovations and thus are often a mix between serendipitous and imminent innovations. This makes it difficult to clearly define the EDI process because people do thinks in a different way. As said before, the most difficult challenge is to convince the rest of the employees and managers of the idea, because if no one supports it, it will never be implemented. How this "I-will-follow-if-someone-does-it-first" thing works, can best be described using the following movie.
As can be seen in the movie, the first one to start a movement (innovation) is often ridiculed by the rest, but when someone embraces this movement (innovation), than others do not find it so strange anymore and are more likely to join the movement (or support the innovative idea). The more people that follow, the faster the movement grows. Now, the movement is started by 1 guy, which is important, but what is sometimes even more important is the first follower (the one that sees something in the idea and tries to convince others to join). People are herd animals: they don’t want to stand out alone, but when other people embrace the craziness (read: innovation), they don’t want to fall out of the herd and join the group. This works exactly the same in a business, if only one persons sees potential and is able to convince others, than the domino effect follows and more and more people will overturn.
When someone has a great idea but can not convince others of the sheer brilliantness, he needs someone to help him; The Champion!

The champion..

Just like the Dutch team at the European Championship in 1988, an innovative idea needs a champion to become a winner. 

A champion is someone who takes on the responsibility for the innovative ideas.The task of the champion is to guide the idea through the first stages up until the initial testing. Internal marketing by the champion regarding the innovation and himself, clearly reduces the risk involved. 
The next step for the champion is to convince the higher level management of the need and feasibility of the idea, where after the champion drops or develops the idea. This is probably the most important phase since once declined; there is nowhere to appeal the decision of the higher management. When the higher management is convinced of the idea, the champion starts gathering intel to support the formal decision to proceed. When champions stay during the launch phase of the innovation, the rate of success is clearly higher.

The effects of EDI..

Studies have shown that EDI has an overall positive effect on the company’s performance regarding profit. This shows that the participation of both skilled and unskilled staff members have a supportive and stimulative effect on the company’s innovative products and processes.Although financial measures are the primary evaluation base for most companies, research has shown that there are also indirect benefits such as customer loyalty, an enhanced image and possible new clients. Other ‘soft effects’ by EDI are reduced stress, lower absence rate, greater job satisfaction, happy employees and thus a higher retention rate. The stress that comes with more responsibilities and influence due to employee innovation, is describes as ‘good’ stress, where deadlines are made and performance is up.