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The City of Winter Haven Launches an Innovation Program

Posted April 6th, 2022

Friday, April 8, City employees will gather with leadership to celebrate the launch of a brand new program: The Bright Ideas Innovation Program. This program encourages employees to share great ideas that can improve the City. Ideas that are implemented will result in an award for the employees. A practice known as gainsharing.

“The employees closest to the work know best how to get that work done,” says Mike Herr, City Manager of the City of Winter Haven. “Gainsharing is a way of rewarding employees for ideas that improve customer service, save money, or create efficiencies.”

Adopted ideas that demonstrate cost savings to the City, and ultimately the tax payers, are eligible for a cash award, up to a maximum of $3,000. Ideas that improve customer service or safety but have no measurable cost savings or cost avoidance are still eligible for a gainsharing award of up to $100.

“Our employees are already dedicated to serving our customers, the citizens of Winter Haven, well every day,” said Shawn Dykes, Human Resources Director. “Now, we’re implementing a process to not only encourage innovation but also reward it. This creates a clear and easy system in which employees of any level or department can share their ideas to make our City even better.”

Digital and Human – The Best of Both Worlds

The City of Winter Haven has partnered with Ideawake to utilize their platform portal for the sharing of bright ideas throughout the City. “I see the partnership between The City of Winter Haven and Ideawake as an amazing way to increase employee engagement while empowering staff to find new ways to deliver value to the community in the most efficient way possible,” said Coby Skonord, the Founder and CEO of Ideawake. “Launching a bottom-up innovation program with these types of incentives that’s enabled by technology like Ideawake makes The City of Winter Haven a pioneer in the Public Sector.”

But what about employees who may not be comfortable with technology? The City will host a series of Innovation Sessions where members of the team will be on-site to sit down with any employee looking to submit an idea to walk them through the process.

From there, the transparency of the online platform really shines.  “Someone from our innovation team will monitor ideas that are submitted every day,” says Connie Minich, Organization Development Specialist with the City of Winter Haven. “The technology will actually create transparency. No one will have to wonder if their idea fell into a black hole or if someone actually reviewed it. Idea submitters will be able to see exactly what’s happening every step of the way.”

The feedback loop has been built in as a critical component in this new process. After submitting an idea, employees will receive notices as the idea moves through the process. They will even be able to log on and see that someone has viewed their idea, comment on each other’s ideas, and understand where their idea is and why.

The City will also maintain an archive of ideas that aren’t moved forward right away. Staff wants every idea to shine as bright as possible, and sometimes that means holding off until the time is right to bring an idea forward. Innovation champions will help employees work through all these details and more.

Moving Ideas through the Process

Ideas generated will move through a six step process:

  1. Employees will submit a short description of their Bright Idea on the Ideawake platform or at one of the in-person Innovation Sessions.
  2. The employee will work with innovation advisors to create a prototype of their Bright Idea.
  3. The employee will further develop their idea into a complete business case. Innovation advisors and subject matter experts will be available to mentor and assist this process.
  4. The employee will present their business case to the Bight Ideas Innovation Review Committee who will evaluate the business case and prototype carefully and make the determination if the idea is ready and eligible for implementation.
  5. The employee will help lead the implementation of their Bright Idea.
  6. The employee will receive their gainsharing award.

Between each step, staff and the innovation team will review ideas to determine which are eligible to move forward. At step four, the Bright Ideas Innovation Review Team, which includes some members of the community who serve on the Smart Cities Advisory Committee, will partner with City leaders to complete the final assessment before implementation. Innovation team members will provide mentorship and feedback at every step of the process.

Bright Ideas – A Smart City Initiative

“A Smart City is a city that is able to tap into the innovative capacity of the people that live and work there,” says Hiep Nguyen, Smart City Officer at the City of Winter Haven. “It is about people, not technology.  We are eager to see the entrepreneurial spirit of City employees come to life through the Bright Ideas program!​”

This new initiative not only amplifies the voice of our employees and provide incentives for their engagement, it also provides a benefit to the citizens of Winter Haven. The core goal of the ideas to be generated is to find ways for the City of Winter Haven to improve customer service, be financially responsible with cost saving and cost avoidance measures, and involve the community in the vetting of ideas.

The City of Winter Haven looks forward to sharing ideas that are generated and implemented through the new Bright Ideas Innovation Program in the coming months. Stay tuned to the City’s website and social media to follow along.