Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Think Outside the Suggestion Box

How do you create a culture of innovation? Where do you find those innovative process improvements? You ask the employees who perform the process for just one thing: what one thing would you do differently that would immediately improve this process or service? Empower your employees to think creatively about your business. Thomas Koulopoulos, author of The Innovation Zone, advises “You need to give people the license to take risks and to fail often enough to realize that they will not be punished for doing the right thing even though the outcome might not be what they expected. Small failures can encourage big successes.”

At this point, you might be thinking “We are already doing this. We have a Suggestion Box for our employees on every floor, or, in every department. We ask our employees for their ideas, and month after month, those suggestion boxes remain empty.” Exactly. From the employees’ standpoint, there is no expectation that they generate new ideas; just a box to drop it into on the chance they do have a new idea. Providing a suggestion box is not the same thing as asking and expecting your employees to think with economic creativity about the work they do.


1. Do you think you currently have a culture of employee innovation?

2. How do you communicate your expectation of idea generation to your employees?

3. What venues/mediums do you have available for employees to bring forth their ideas?

4. When an employee generates a viable innovative idea, how do you empower them to implement their idea?

5. What rewards and recognition programs do you have in place for employees who successfully generate and implement economically creative ideas?

6. How do you provide feedback and coaching to employees who are generating non-viable ideas?

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