By definition To Contribute means to give something, or to take a part of to do something. When it comes to works, I believe that to contribute means to give away something related to work, without getting ordered to do so. It could probably means that someone in your team ask you to do something and you help, or to come up with something even if no one ask you to.
To contribute, is not about when you’re ordered to do something, or do something that’s part of your duty. In this sense it’s more like fulfilling your duty instead. You’ve got paid to work.
So why people contribute to their work ?
I believe that people contribute because they get something back in return, but not in a sense of getting paid or benefits. People help out each others because they value their relationships, and that what they get they tighten their relationships.
When it come to contribution that made with no one requested, I believe that they value their company. They want the company to sustain, so they can make a stable income. But that’s only a part of it. Sometime people contribute to their work because they find obstacle in their day-to-day job. He wants to get the issue fix, but without showing how could it fixed and the outcome people around him wouldn’t recognize how exactly the issue is a problem. Ultimately the results of contribution returns to those who contributes. It makes jobs easier for them.
Also you have to come up with a concrete thing, contributing ideas does not go very far. If you have ideas about tools, try making working prototypes and show people.
When someone is trying to contribute something, especially when he’s not asked to do so, it’s important to look at what it is aimed for. It might be much larger problem than the contribution targets to. You might see that there are problems in the process, tools, workflows, etc. that cause burden to your team, then come up with a solution. Take the contribution as a starter point, and start tackling the problem bit-by-bit until it get resolved. Also make sure to give credits to the contributors.
Contribute or not contribute
I strongly believe that contributing to works is important, and it’s valuable to myself. There are some benefit apart from solving the problem. Of cause your problem will get ease because of thing you do (however sometime you have to push to get it shared among people for the best benefit). You learn something outside of your day-to-day job, and that can be something that changes your career path.
However contribution can be very hard sometime. People does not recognize what you try to push as a contribution. In fact, they might see it as a burden. Many people just enjoy the way they are, they can leave with a problem (and a lot of complaints), they don’t want it to get fixed as they might loose their job. etc. The worse comments I’ve got so far is “You should keep it with yourself” while the contribution should be applied to the work I’m doing.
If you want to contribute something, be prepared for the worst outcome too.
Anyway I’d like to encourage people to contribute, especially to work. Well it’s your own benefit too, isn’t it ?