Your intentions may be good, but there is more to open innovation than just a suggestion box.
As our ability to collaborate and share information continues to get easier by the day and crowdsourcing and open innovation initiatives become more popular, organizations in all industries are looking to tap into the knowledge of their employees to move their operations forward.
But for many organizations, this is not something they can just jump right into. Along with changes to who you’re getting ideas from, changes to your organizational culture and infrastructure will be necessary too. Make sure you’re addressing these factors that could keep your employees from sharing their best ideas.
People care about their jobs, and most would rather not “ruffle any feathers” by appearing to step out of the boundaries of their responsibilities. They believe it’s easier (and safer) to just keep their mouths shut (and ideas to themselves) to avoid negative feedback or repercussions.
Solution: Focus on building a culture of innovation. Publicly encourage the sharing ideas, even controversial, on a regular basis, and throughout all levels of the hierarchy.
A suggestion box can seem like a black hole. Managers are too busy to take meetings. Brainstorming sessions are forgotten. There’s just no where to take ideas and feedback.
Great ideas are worthless if no action is taken, but equally as important for ideas (and their owners) is feedback. A pattern of employees sharing ideas but management never sharing any public feedback or plans for action can quickly extinguish any open innovation or collaboration efforts put forth.
Solution: Not every idea needs feedback, but thanking employees for their participation and remaining transparent with the process that ideas will go through if they are moving forward can go a long way to sustained engagement.
“What can we do better?” Starting with a blank slate can be intimidating and inefficient. Employees are fearful they aren’t sharing the right ideas, will share ideas that are frankly impossible to implement, and may get stumped without a “push” in the right direction.
Solution: Outline challenges, questions, and criteria for your employees to base their ideas around. Limitations might look, well, “limiting”, but they give employees a starting point and help ensure you’re getting ideas that you both need and can take action on.