PwC: Is Business Problem Solving the Exclusive Domain of Leadership or Can Rank-And-File Employees Participate as Well?

Nov 22, 2010 | Corporate Member News

By Michele McConomy | Innovation Office, PwC 

One of Leadership’s core responsibilities is to address issues and challenges within the business.  But what if we flipped that model and gave part of that responsibility to our employees?  People are our greatest asset as we hire the best and brightest to join us in delivering the highest quality professional services, so involving them in addressing challenges is imperative.  Now with the power of new technologies, the discussion that once took place in a conference room can be opened to everyone across the globe for their ideas and thoughts.  As such, we found a way to tap into the knowledge and expertise of our people and challenge them to help solve the business challenges facing us.

Innovation challenges are time bound initiatives to challenge our people to share their ideas in response to a particular business issue.  Business sponsors are responsible for championing the challenge by setting the challenge question and assembling teams of people in place to respond, evaluate, and bring ideas forward toward implementation.   These individuals are members of leadership who are empowered to create organization change and have an extensive network to make it happen.  A challenge may run anywhere from two to three weeks focused on soliciting as many ideas as possible.

In our first fifteen months, the US firm ran about twenty challenges using iPlace. Innovation challenges are time bound initiatives to challenge our people to share their ideas in response to a particular business issue.  As a result, over 65% of the ideas in iPlace have come in as a result of a challenge (approximately 1500 ideas). The US firm hosts a range of challenges, focused on creating greater efficiencies, developing relationships, driving growth and opportunity, and developing new business.  By giving people a challenge, it ignites a sense of urgency and gives them a basis for their ideas.  Asking people to respond to challenges has helped yield ideas that are relevant to strategy and respond to key issues and opportunities in the marketplace.
We have experimented with various approaches to challenges including: 1) firm-wide challenges. inviting all employees to participate, 2) focused challenges. targeting a particular line of service, practice, or sector, 3) local challenges. within local markets and offices.  Each approach has yielded slight variations in results, but one thing is clear – challenge ideas have a greater probability of becoming implemented ideas.  We have found over 70% of all ideas implemented over the past 15 months we derived from a challenge.  Challenges have proven that they not only yield more relevant ideas, but that business sponsors of challenges have greater chance of making an idea a reality.   How do you challenge your people to help solve tough business challenges?

About PwC:

PwC firms provide industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to enhance value for their clients. More than 161,000 people in 154 countries in firms across the PwC network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice. See for more information. In Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP ( and its related entities have more than 5,300 partners and staff in offices across the country.

“PwC” is the brand under which member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwCIL) operate and provide services. Together, these firms form the PwC network. Each firm in the network is a separate legal entity and does not act as agent of PwCIL or any other member firm. PwCIL does not provide any services to clients. PwCIL is not responsible or liable for the acts or omissions of any of its member firms nor can it control the exercise of their professional judgment or bind them in any way.

“PwC” refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, which is a member firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each member firm of which is a separate legal entity.

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