How to Get Creative Ideas Out of Your Employees

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					How to Get Creative Ideas Out of Your Employees
If you want your business to become a leader in providing creative and
innovative solutions, you'll need ways to gather creative and innovative
ideas. One of the best sources of new ideas for any business is their
After all, your employees know your business the best and know the
people, customers, equipment and current processes. They may have some
great ideas to streamline processes to make things more efficient or may
have ideas about other products your customers want.
One thing many managers struggle with is how to encourage their employees
to put forward their ideas. There are several tools you can use to help
you gather ideas such as suggestion boxes (or modern day equivalents
using computer programs), competitions for the best creative solution to
a current problem the business is facing, and creating 'innovation teams
or committees'.
Suggestion Boxes
While the 'suggestion box' where employees would 'post' slips of paper
with their ideas is somewhat outdated, several companies are now offering
computer programs that provide 'idea management' and provide easy to use
tools for your employees to submit their ideas.
The main problem with the suggestion box is that the ideas may be
gathered but the employees receive no response to their ideas. It can be
impersonal, not allowing the person to express their ideas verbally or to
explain any parts of the ideas that need clarification.
If the employee doesn't present their idea well in this impersonal
format, it may well be ignored, even if it was a great idea in the first
place. Also, the suggestion box often became the method of complaining
about situations, rather than coming up with creative solutions to solve
the problems.
If you use a suggestion box, in any way or format, you need to ensure
that employees receive responses and rewards for submitting ideas, and
that you have some method of getting clarification on their ideas before
they are rejected. People are less likely to submit their ideas if they
think it will just go into the 'void' of 'computer space'.
Many companies have decided that holding competitions among employees for
providing ideas to solve particular issues or problems works well. The
competition must have a prize or reward that the employees want.
Recognition for their ideas, plus some monetary or prize reward will
often encourage employees to submit their ideas.
You are more likely to gather ideas that will work to solve your
particular issue but may not receive 'brainwave ideas' about other
issues. I've seen the competition style work very well in the short-term
but over a longer period, employees start losing their enthusiasm,
especially once all the 'easy' solutions have already been submitted.
Competitions are limited then to specific issues or even themes (like how
can we make our business safer during a 'safety week' promotion) and for
a short term. They might help to gather ideas but again, unless you have
a tools to evaluate and decide which ideas to follow up on, you may end
up losing the ideas.
If employees enter a competition and provide their ideas for one issue,
and then see no new innovation or solution to the issue being
implemented, they are not very likely to put forward ideas for the next
Innovation Teams or Committees
Some companies have tried to put together teams or committees to help
them both gather and evaluate creative ideas. The committee may have one
or two representatives from each department for example and meet once a
month to discuss ideas they have gathered in the meantime.
This is one way that reduces the employee feeling like they are 'talking
into the great void' because it provides people they can go and have a
chat to about their ideas. This process also shares the ideas around a
number of people and what may not exactly work in one department, may be
a great idea that can be adapted for use by another department.
These types of committees can work well, providing the meetings have
clear agendas and are attended by people in roles that have the authority
to make decisions to implement the ideas. If you only have members who
don't have any authority and can make those decisions, your employees
will again face the frustration of putting forward their ideas but having
nothing happen and no actions taking place.
You need to choose the committee members or innovation team members well,
to ensure the meeting do not end up being a 'talk fest' where nothing is
really achieved.
Whatever tool you use to gather and evaluate ideas and creative
solutions, you will need to ensure employees see some results, otherwise
they will stop putting forward their ideas. Even if their idea is not
accepted for implementation, employees should be recognised and
encouraged for putting forward their ideas in the first place.
Remember that actions speak louder than words and seeing a good idea
being implemented will certainly encourage all your employees to put
forward their other ideas.
Jan Delmas is the founder of Simple Synergy. Simple Synergy is dedicated
to helping businesses unlock creativity in the workplace.
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