As Dr. Linus Pauling explained "The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas" because sometimes the silliest employee’s idea can make a significant difference to your business and even bad ideas can be a trigger for the perfect one. To have a lot of ideas, your employees need the opportunity to provide input and receive meaningful feedback from leadership. They need acknowledgment, but first of all they need to be motivated to submit ideas.
Whether you’re watching from the perspective of large companies or small enterprises, employees’ ideas can be very powerful driver of improvements and innovation within any company. Most great ideas for enhancing and achieving business growth aren’t discovered in the conference rooms or during brainstorming meetings of managers. They come from employees who are facing and interacting with clients and customers on every day basis and probably have bunch of ideas how to improve processes, customer service, product design or even some operational suggestions.
The great challenge for managers is finding ways to foster motivation or/and innovative ideas of their employees. The most beautiful part of this challenge is that by relying on your employees and their ideas, you’re creating incredible opportunities for organic growth. Companies need to learn to listen and encourage their people to use their creative potential in order to tap in the most powerful economic stimulus of all: Idea power – power of idea! This is basically employee-centered approach that is based on encouraging employees to submit all their ideas.
Motivation of your employees is a delicate topic in many disciplines, but here we will focus on how to motivate your employees to submit all their ideas!
Promote innovation culture: It’s very important to raise awareness on innovation and ways on how to submit ideas! Research shows that 42% of employees have no idea where to submit an idea when it comes to them and 80% have never been rewarded for a good idea they put forward. Create atmosphere in your company to be supportive of ideas and innovation. Your employees have to know where and how they can become involved in ideation process. Introduce to all your employees with the tools you’re using for collecting and developing ideas. Online solutions for innovation management are perfect because your employees can have access to them whenever and wherever they get a brilliant idea! Make short presentation, pamphlets or even posters about your tool to introduce your employees. This way they will learn about ideation and innovation process very indirectly and they will be more willing to submit their ideas. Learning and innovation always go hand in hand.
Provide incentives: Setting specific goals is an effective way to get valuable ideas. Create a series of targeted campaigns searching for answers on specific questions related to your innovation strategy. Run campaigns cross-functionally and across different departments to get as much ideas as you can, and to hear different perspective on those ideas. Let your employees share insights, comments and openly collaborate on their ideas. Campaigns are used to generate powerful ideas, to move your business forward and to reach sustainable growth through continuosly filled innovation pipeline. This way you will have one place to develop ideas and database for all quality ideas.
Communicate/collaborate effectively: This part considers your top management. Once when idea is submitted, react! Your employees need to get your feedback on their ideas. Otherwise, they can feel like their input is being submitted to a black hole, and that nobody listens and acknowedge their effort. Many employees with creative ideas do not share their ideas with management for fear that their input will be ignored or ridiculed. Managers who treat employees with respect will find their employees to be motivated to participate. When your top management gives them feedback, they will feel more confident into expresing their ideas, suggestions and insights. "An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea." Edward de Bono
Establish system of reward and recognition: Research show that quality of ideas was substantially increased by introducing rewards. Apparently, the rewards induced individuals to think more about ideas, and increase employees participating in submitting ideas. Rewards can be a key motivational tool to increase productivity and improve employees’ engagement. They are a powerful mean of promoting participation within your innovation incentives, as they create a sense of contribution to innovation process for idea winners. If an employee’s idea lead to a change, publicize the change. Recognize the employee and show the whole company the benefit of his/her idea. People respect leaders who have the humility to give credit for a job well done. When employees realize that their ideas matter, that will encourage others to become serious about sharing their ideas.
Innovation is a not one time thing, it’s a process and ongoing approach that will yield lasting results. Leaders and managers have to see it as primarily a communication challenge. Ask your employees to innovate in areas they well know and are personally passionate about. In text above you have four most important steps that will help you to create systematic collection of all impulses that will lead to innovation. Awareness, incentives, collaboration and recognition are must have steps in innovation culture.