We are told that we are always one innovation away from either getting wiped out or wiping out our competition. While this might have sounded as a fad two to three decades ago, it is the reality today. The truth is, innovation is the REAL deal, and even big companies who used to have the so-called ultimate trump card can be made to vanish now if they fail to innovate.
This means companies that desire sustainable competitive advantage must keep evolving by not only investing and creatively improving its current product/services or business model but also on new ways to cannibalize them.
But for innovation to happen, ideas must be generated. Unfortunately, most companies struggle to generate enough quality ideas.
Turning to employees is one of the most effective ways of generating ideas. Making idea generation a duty and responsibility every member of the organisation rather than limiting it to top management and the innovation (R&D) department alone can be essential in fostering the innovation potential of a company. Innovation problems/challenges should be made open by top management as well as the areas and priority of innovation needs. For example; sales, new product/process, business model etc.
Benefits of Employee Idea Generation
- It creates a sense of ownership and makes employees feel part of the process (something bigger than themselves)
- It builds a creative culture that results in entrepreneurial thinking and creative learning (form of learning that prioritises understanding over memorization).
- Large quantities of ideas can be generated. While this may not necessarily mean more quality ideas, it however, increases the probability of equality ideas.
Steps to Generating Innovative Ideas from Employee
- It is important to ensure that employees feel safe and know that they have the full support of the management.
- Idea generation segment should be integrated into every weekly/monthly departmental meetings as deemed fit by the company.
- Every member of each department must come to every meeting with ideas no matter how negligible. Alternatively, employees can be grouped and each given the opportunity to suggest an area to come up with ideas based on the company innovation current and future innovation plans
- Companies should ensure that ideas are fairly evaluated by providing motivational feedback to employees whose ideas were selected. This is because research has shown that the more an employee ideas get accepted, the higher the probability that the next idea was also accepted
- Efficient feedback should also be provided to employees whose ideas were rejected; stating why they were rejected and encouraged to keep coming up with more ideas
- After collection, ideas which are small, valuable and feasible should be implemented at the department level and bigger ones (those that can significantly affect the company’s business objectives) escalated to top management
- Ensure that all successful ideas are adequately rewarded
- Idea owners should sometimes but not often be involved in the implementation. This can help in developing the innovation capacities of employees because of the experience they will gain in the innovation process (idea through implementation)