Thursday, July 10, 2008

Keep The Ideas Flowing

Like Diamonds In The Rough
Ever seen a rough diamond? They appear to be a bit interesting. They stir a bit of curiosity, but on the surface, may not appear to be such a big deal. The beauty of the stone is not truly apparent until after someone takes the time to clean and polish it. Then it begins to show more promise. When the diamond is expertly cut, the true beauty and brilliance of the stone is revealed.

Ideas can be compared to rough diamonds. On the surface, some ideas may not appear to have much value, could be discounted or overlooked. However, when the right person looks at the idea, takes time to consider it, and sees beyond the surface, the true brilliance can be revealed.

Ideas Have Many Sources
In an organization, ideas are born out of personal experiences, business experiences, accidents, mistakes, customer interactions, product returns, miscommunications and in numerous other unpredictable ways. The number of ideas produced each day are countless. The number that actually reach the ear of management are few. Why? Oftentimes, due to fear of being considered foolish, misguided, disruptive, a dreamer, a complainer, fiscally irresponsible or unrealistic.

It's important to create an environment where ideas are welcomed and encouraged. Provide opportunities for staff to make suggestions. Know that many products and discoveries were born out of mistakes or miscalculations. Acknowledge and reward suggestions made by anyone. Most importantly, be careful not to kill good ideas or individual's spirits. To keep ideas flowing, avoid doing the following:

  • Ignore the idea. Dead silence is a sure killer of an idea
  • Laugh it off. By reacting to an idea as if it is a joke, you discount the individual
  • Respond with, "Oh, we've tried that before." It makes the idea generator feel out of the loop
  • Modifying the idea. Saying it is a good idea, and proceeding to change it, says you really didn't think is was such a good idea after all
  • Personally attacking the idea originator. Once recovered, they surely will not come your way again
  • Doubt the originator is the owner of the idea. "Did you come up with that all by yourself?"
  • Multiple postponements of a decision on the idea. If it's such a good idea, why is it not important enough to address in a timely manner?

Develop An Idea Processing System
If you don't already have a plan /vpolicy in place for processing ideas, why not establish one. What does your organization do with customer or employee ideas? How do you manage them, give credit, reward, and encourage creativity? In what ways do you encourage idea generation and sharing in your department? What recognition systems are in place to reward generators of useful, money saving, or profit generating ideas?

Take the time to look at your organization. If staff aren't generating and sharing ideas, find out why. Once you know the why, use this information to facilitate the transformation of your organization. You can do this by encouraging idea generation, taking action, implementing ideas, recognizing originators and providing originator rewards. Not all ideas will be winners, but encourage their continued flow. Who knows when a diamond will be discovered, disguised as a dirty stone.