LinkedIn Innovator Challenge: A Recipe for Innovation

March 7, 2012

Once a month, we set aside a Friday for employees to focus on investing in themselves and their community. It's a day to spend time outside their daily task list. Check out other InDay posts here. - Ed. 

Every company is hungry for innovation. At LinkedIn, we've cooked up something we call the "Innovator Challenge," which has been tremendously successful at bringing out new and disruptive ideas from every employee at the company. It's a one-day event that mixes competition and recognition as a way to bring creative ideas to life. Here's the recipe:


  • One day of work
  • Every employee at your company
  • A couple hours with your executive staff
  • A few prizes and incentives

Innovator Challenge Winners. From l-r: LinkedIn CEO - Jeff Weiner, Guest judge - Mary Meeker, Winning team - Maria Jabon and Michal Huang, LinkedIn Co-founder - Reid Hoffman


Take one day of work and every employee at your company, mix thoroughly, and let simmer for 8 hours. We've found that almost everyone is walking around with a few great ideas locked away in their head; you can help release these hidden flavors and aromas by giving everyone a full day to spend on pursuing their passions and creativity. The deliverable by the end of the day is a quick "pitch" (we limit it to 2 minutes) using any medium (powerpoint, video, drawing, interpretive dance) to get the idea across. Now, add in the executive staff. Getting time to work on your ideas is great; having a chance to get your work recognized and your ideas heard by the executive staff is even better. Set up a fun event with food and drink where employees can present their ideas and the executive staff act as a panel of "judges," offering feedback and advice. Add spices to taste: consider inviting celebrity judges from the industry too. Finally, stir in a few prizes and incentives. We've found that t-shirts, electronics, and gift cards work well to create an atmosphere of friendly competition. As a cherry on top for the winners, give them ample opportunity to show off their projects to all the relevant parties, such as a couple minutes to present their winning ideas at a product all-hands or engineering all-hands.

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: at this year's Innovator Challenge, we had 400 ideas submitted. We did local judging in 18 offices around the world and narrowed the field down to 18 finalists. We brought in guest judge Mary Meeker to join CEO Jeff Weiner and co-founder Reid Hoffman to pick the winners. After an exciting round of presentations, we selected our 2012 Innovator Challenge Champions: 1st Place: Maria Jabon & Michal Huang (Mountain View) 2nd Place: Andrew Ahn (Mountain View) 3rd Place: Catherine PorterRyu SugimotoRei Hasegawa, & Jiro Ogawa (Tokyo) Some of these ideas, including our winners, are disruptive enough that we can't talk about them until we build them. Stay tuned. We are excited to continue the Innovator Challenge tradition at LinkedIn. We hope that you can try this recipe too so you can uncover the brilliant and disruptive ideas that are sitting dormant in your office.