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3 steps to paving a path for employees to approach you with innovative ideas

6 Sep 2019

Learn how to improve your business culture and empower employees to approach you with their own ideas.

Have you ever had a great idea only to have it shot down by your seniors at work? Perhaps it never even reached them in the first place because you didn’t know how to bring it to their attention.

There are reasons why employers sometimes overlook or dismiss the ideas staff tell them about. Thankfully, Fast Company has outlined some helpful insights into why your light-bulb moments might be going unnoticed.

An Accenture study found that 72pc of companies have no formalised process to review and evaluate their employees’ ideas. A large part of that is likely due to an aversion to risk-taking, particularly in companies that prioritise profits and demonstrable results.

Unfortunately, aversion can create a culture that hinders creativity. So, what can companies do to make sure that doesn’t happen?

1. Implement a clear system for submissions

A good place to start is with a defined process.

If employees don’t know how or where they can carry their ideas to the people above them, their initiatives will either be seriously slowed or eliminated altogether.

It’s important to build an avenue to prevent that. It can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want, with examples including everything from a humble suggestion box to a dedicated Slack channel for submissions.

2. Eliminate the politics around picking ideas

You have the infrastructure set up, now what about the selection process? Employees will appreciate honesty in this and they deserve it, too. Keeping the decision-making as transparent as possible will minimise any chances of disbelief or friction.

Something to take inspiration from here could be the democratic system established by Rite-Solutions, a Rhode Island-based IT company. As reported by the Harvard Business Review, its workers get the opportunity to invest in each other’s ideas, encouraging collaboration, feedback and candour.

3. Make failures okay

Failing at something means that you’ve taken a risk, and that’s an integral ingredient to many of the world’s most successful companies.

An example that we’re likely all familiar with is Apple. Earlier this year, the company cancelled a project that had already been officially announced. Its AirPower product, a wireless charging pad, never made it to the shelves and yet the multinational tech company continues to power ahead with new devices.

Of course, a business can’t survive if all its ventures go bust, but creating a more positive mindset around failing will take the pressure off staff and, ultimately, widen the arena for innovation.

Fast Company’s lasting advice is to let other elements dictate your investment in an employee’s idea besides its potential profitability.

Instead, pay more attention to how it could solve a problem and make it clear to your teams that their inputs will be listened to with authenticity and openness.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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