Unleashing the ideas of your frontline staff can play a huge role in the success of your organization. Managers may be the best source for aggregated information, but it is the frontline staff — the sales team, the marketing team, the customer care team — that holds the specific and detailed knowledge about how the work really gets done and how current systems can be improved.
The Benefits of Implementing a Powerful Innovation Management System
High performance idea systems that have been successfully implemented by an organization are the key to unlocking the invaluable information your frontline workers hold, all the while keeping ideas organized and manageable. Idea systems:
- Promote rapid organization-wide learning (it creates a cascading effect where one person learning then drives others to contribute to the development of ideas)
- Offer a competitive advantage
- Make downstream innovation less likely to be copied and easier to implement than upstream innovation
- Force leaders to adopt and embrace innovative change
- Can improve an organization’s culture
Why Are Successful Innovation Management Systems Rare?
Before we dig into the reasons why these high performance idea systems are so rarely seen, it is important to understand how the idea management process works.
The starting point to any powerful innovation management initiative is to first have a company culture that supports and promotes it. This means having a system in place that fast-tracks an employee’s ideas to management. The second step is encouraging the creation of high quality ideas. This often requires frequent brainstorming sessions that are performed on a regular and consistent basis. The final and most difficult step is the execution of the ideas.
This idea-driven culture and process is often faced with two common issues:
- Dominance of the voluntary suggestion box paradigm (i.e. asking for ideas does not equate to installing a suggestion box). This fails because:
a. It makes idea contribution voluntary
b. Ideas are not focused
- Significant changes are required to change organizational assumptions and norms.
Employees often believe that leadership is incapable of making necessary changes, or the changes that will be made will be done incorrectly. Trying to get organizational leaders on board with the implementation of these ideas can be extremely difficult, but if ideas are not implemented, employees will eventually feel as if their efforts are a waste of their time. The best solution to this problem is transitioning the leadership team’s behaviour from one that is directive to one that is engaging and transparent.
How to Harness the Full Potential of a Powerful Idea Management Program
- Make Idea Generation a Daily “Task”: By moving daily idea generation from the “voluntary” category to the “mandatory” category for everyone in the organization (this includes leadership) and making these ideas visible to all staff, you are holding each and every employee accountable for the success of the organization. We have a great post on the barriers to idea generation and another post on why consistency drives engagement.
- Place Emphasis on Small Ideas: The smaller the idea, the easier it will be to implement as you will be met with less resistance (i.e. you may not need to deal with upper management or upper management may be more conducive to the idea as it requires less resources, etc.). Starting with smaller building blocks almost always leads to greater success. Here’s another post on how small ideas can lead to big wins.
- Share Performance Metrics That Focus on Ideas: By translating the company’s strategic goals into metrics that are relatable to employees, you are sharing how their performance directly helps solve problems or create opportunities within the organization. Performance metrics also drive workplace accountability helping employees to take ownership of their ideas.
The key to a successfully implemented powerful innovation management initiative lies in how valued and accomplished your employees feel when contributing ideas. By adopting these strategies that include a supportive company culture, accountability and transparency, your organization can begin to tap into the invaluable knowledge that your frontline staff hold.