We did this little exercise with a client some time back. We looked at the 10 initiatives the business had started in the last six months and did a bit of investigative work to find out who had provided the genesis of the idea behind each initiative.
The CEO, who was a very entrepreneurial chap, accounted for many, and the management team – thanks largely to the head of sales – the remainder. But notably, no ideas had bubbled up from the pool of over 100 employees.
We weren’t that surprised. It seems that unless one actively encourages employees to come up with ideas, and then to share them, they often don’t. The reason for this we suspect is because so many of us – and we include ourselves here – enthusiastically shared our mediocre ideas with superiors when we first joined the work force only to have them greeted with disdain!
But this isn’t as dire as it sounds; rather it presents a fantastic opportunity. Since the key to long term year-on-year profitable growth is constant innovation, businesses that can harness the ideas of all their employees will out-perform those that don’t.
And it’s really not that hard to make a start. Here are six ways to encourage your employees to come up with ideas, not just today but every day:
1 - The need for ideas
A common misunderstanding amongst employees is that employers don’t want their ideas, so explain why ideas are key to growing your business. Before you do this though we suggest you start with an explanation of how growing the business is good for everyone – this appeals to the “what’s in it for me” that lurks inside many an employee.
2 - No idea is a stupid idea
No-one wants to look silly, especially not employees, so make sure that all ideas are gratefully received!
3 - It's all about purpose
Employees are more likely to generate ideas that will help your business if they understand the purpose and vision of the business. You and your management team have probably got this down pat, but does your most junior employee understand what the business is really trying to achieve?
4 - Why do we do it like that?
Encourage your employees to challenge processes and procedures. The simple question “why do we do it like that,” has uncovered some mightily ineffective processes in a number of businesses.
5 - Here's one we made earlier
You can’t beat a real life example of a good idea to inspire your team and illustrate the type of idea you are looking for.
6 - Box it
Paradoxically, constraints stimulate creativity. Give your team three questions to work-up for ideas – such as “how can we halve our delivery time?” This way, you will unleash more creativity than had you just asked for general ideas.
Of course you’ll get a mixed bag of ideas. Some will be “suggestion box” type ideas that you can either implement or (kindly) discard, some will be useful and some will just seem completely ridiculous. Be on the look out for these, as Albert Einstein said: “If at first the idea isn’t absurd, then there’s no hope for it…”
Has this article got you thinking about your business and how you want to grab the reins and drive it forward but you struggle to find the time or feel that you lack the skills or knowledge to do so?
Are you looking at your screen wondering how or if Good2Great could possibly help you to build a better future for you and your company?
If so, why not check out free ways to learn more either at a seminar or in a free one-to-one business health check.
OR – perhaps you’re still at the start of your business journey – check out the Business Start Up Bootcamps