G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón have written a useful column over at Business Week's website about innovation. In that article, they describe the concept of "idea monkeys" - those people in your organization who are an endless source of ideas and suggestions for how to do things better. They warn against the tendency to become overwhelmed by these individuals. One doesn't want to curb their energy. Instead, Maddock and Vitón recommend finding ways to direct their enthusiasm and efforts. Call on them to innovate in a particular area that needs improvement, for instance.
One thought struck me as I read the article. Leaders not only have to learn how to work with such "idea monkeys"... they must help those innovators persuade and influence others to adopt their ideas. The most creative and innovative folks in organizations do not always have the skills required to sell others on those ideas. Leaders in the organization have to help them build buy-in and commitment.