A LinkedIn discussion thread started with:
What do you think are the main barriers for an employee to come up with a new idea?
Some of the comments were spot on, I thought:
“Great question! My answer: Layers and layers of management from C-Level to Micro-managers, more layers and layers of processes intended to create productivity but actually reducing it, politically – the ever present need for everyone to include their thumbprint of ownership of an idea and finally, FEAR: “if it was such a good idea, someone would have done it already”.” (Jerry Braccia)
“Context and clarity would be the main two. Context in terms of employees understanding and being encouraged to participate in creative and innovative thinking in something more than just the ‘suggestion box’. Clarity in terms of understanding the ‘where to from here process’ for new ideas, and knowing each idea simply needs to benefit the organisation, and not necessarily be an industry changing world first!” (Brad Kerwin)
But then some leaned toward putting the blame on the employees and the workplace climate of not sharing and the wasting of time focused on rumors and money or trying to get the favor or the boss. Blame was even focused on the issues of perceived respect or the lack of training.
Me, I have a different approach when it comes to gaining the ideas of employees so I posted up this response:
Don’t think about an elephant!
The premise seems to be that people are somehow choosing not to come up with an idea in some of the posts. If YOU are working at a job and some aspect of it does not seem to work smoothly, how can you NOT come up with a better idea as to how to make things work more smoothly? The elephants are all around the workplace.
But it is NOT the issue of there being no ideas, the issue is that no one seems to want to listen to them. People will “rumor” about good ideas just as much as they will rumor about workplace crapiola.
I use one of our tools and show them a wooden wagon rolling on Square Wheels. The cargo are round rubber tires. And nearly everyone (including most senior managers) seem to agree that it is how things really work in most organizations.
The Square Wheels represent “things” so the discussion tends to lean far from the issues of personality. The round wheels simply represent “ideas”. Not all of them are good (the wheels do not have rims or there is no air in the tire). But there are LOTS of ideas when one uses group processes to involve and engage people.
The issue is that everyone is too busy doing things like they have always done them and there seems to be no time nor resources to do anything differently. Or, the issue is an interdepartmental one and we know how well interdepartmental collaboration works (an oxymoron, for sure, in many organizations.
It is NOT a dearth of ideas (even for new product development), but an issue of engagement and implementation of those ideas. I call it Engagimentation and it involves generating a vision / goal, managing resources and expectations, and allowing the people to try the new ideas in a low-risk, high support kind of context.
That is just how I see things, and that view has held up over 20+ years and 38 countries and counting…
For the FUN of It!
My thinking is that the supervisor can work with the people to design case studies around problems and value and help people focus on roadblock management and collaboration. We accomplish this with the use of our Square Wheels illustrations along with our team building tools.
Generating a culture of collaboration and innovation and defining the best approaches to implementing ideas in the workplace is pretty straightforward, in my thinking. People want to be involved and be asked to participate. Peer support can be a powerful motivator of collaboration and engagement. Engagimentation is a pretty simple thing, really, but you have to stop pulling and pushing to allow people time to see what is happening and talk about alternatives. You can read more about it here in my blog.
But if we keep doing the same things the same way, you can pretty much expect the same results.
Addendum – I came across a good infographic with a nice way of showing a lot of data and ideas and information. Check it out at:
Here is a small part of the graphic:
Check it out! Engagement is not rocket science — it is actually quite straightforward and can be accomplished if the culture is supportive of these kinds of initiatives. It MUST be seen as VALUABLE.
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at email@example.com
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