The collection of ideas is important for innovation success. Hence, the more ideas, the better. That is why it is important to promote idea-sharing at work.
On that thought, there are things that you can do at your organization to gather better ideas, like making sure the problem is well-defined or infusing the brainstorming session with a sense of urgency.
Furthermore, people are more willing to add their ideas if they know that their ideas will be evaluated, and the good ones get followed up.
In this article, we will discuss 10 ways you can promote idea-sharing at work.
How to Promote Idea Sharing at Work
Traditionally, some offices put up “suggestion boxes” around the office where employees can covertly drop their ideas without anyone noticing. However, this method may give you more complaints than ideas for the following reasons:
- Suggestion boxes only gather input. Everyone can submit their ideas in the box. But none of them will receive immediate feedback, which often results in a reduced motivation to participate or contribute to the ideation process.
- Employees might take advantage of the suggestion box to air out complaints. They may also send irrelevant comments and other inappropriate statements to the management instead of ideas.
- No systems are set in place to gather high-quality ideas. Hence, the sorting process becomes difficult and frustrating due to the randomness of suggestions sent over.
Today, more and more organizations are practicing what we call “open innovation”, which is built on the belief that “good ideas could come from other people, including employees, customers, and the public”.
If you want your employees to openly contribute their ideas, you must promote idea sharing first. Here are some easy ways to do that:
1. Ask Questions
Asking questions to your employees regularly helps generate a lot of ideas. This method is probably the most ancient form of generating ideas that are still being done today.
Naturally, your questions must not be “poor” ones. Rather, they should spark creative thinking in those who listen.
You can ask them these questions by asking them step-by-step about their:
- Views. How do they perceive the topic? What are their assumptions, thoughts, and insights about it?
- Reflections from previous, relevant experiences. Have they encountered the subject in real life? What experiences can they share about it? What makes the topic a struggle? What makes it easy?
- Analysis. What did that situation make you realize? What do you think should we do to explore and examine the topic further? What can we possibly do to improve this situation if our customers experience it?
- Recommendations. With all the information gathered through this process, what actions, processes, systems, or products should we create, initiate, stop, venture in, or continue? How do we go on about it?
When somebody provides you with an answer, make sure to entertain it and not dismiss it altogether. That is the key for others to follow and provide you with more ideas in answer to the questions that you have posed.
2. Provide Incentives
Offering incentives and rewards work greatly in motivating other people to do certain things. When it comes to promoting idea sharing, giving your employees the right incentives will get them moving.
If you like, you can reward everyone who contributed an idea, sort of like a consolation prize. Or if you like, you could also settle at rewarding only those with ideas that further progress into innovation projects.
Since people are different, you should also think about diversifying your rewards like:
- A day off
- Gift cards
What is important here is figuring out the right rewards to give.
3. Encourage Feedback
It is important that your employees feel that they are free to share their ideas for projects. Doing this greatly improves communication within your organization, leading your employees to share even more of their ideas.
As you may know, the easiest way to do this is by making it clear to them that feedback is absolutely acceptable. Not only will they be listened to, but if the ideas are good, they should see them being acted upon.
Naturally, the opposite of this — discouraging feedback — will negatively affect your organization’s innovation projects. Higher-ups will be seen as hostile and unapproachable, and members will never share their ideas again.
When a company integrates feedback into its culture, employees naturally want to engage more in the brainstorming process of the organization.
With a solid feedback-encouraging environment, you can empower your employees to drive relevant changes in your organization and industry. Encourage feedback by:
- Making your team understand that comments are opportunities to improve.
- Share best practices for acquiring, offering, providing, receiving, and accepting employee feedback.
- Organize standards in relation to your feedback structure. Establish organizational criteria for what constitutes feedback and regularly communicate that information to both employees and team leaders.
- Utilize multiple feedback avenues. This allows your workers to provide comments in a manner that they are most comfortable doing in various scenarios.
- Encourage both good and negative comments.
- Showcase initiatives, changes, improvements, and results are taken in response to feedback.
4. Gamify the Process
Gamification is a great tool for encouraging others to participate. Those who are engaged with the cause will try their best to reach important goals and enjoy the process along the way to earn experience points and level up.
That is why Accept Mission has a lot of gamification features, including undercover mode. This is extremely important since others may be able to pitch in their ideas without the fear of being criticized for their ideas.
Gamifying tasks have been demonstrated to encourage employees to fully engage in the process and view it as a fun, rewarding, and more fulfilling experience.
That said, Accept Mission has numerous gamification features available, including:
- Leaderboards. An idea, comment, like, contribution, or suggestion raises a participant’s XP level.
- Goal setting. A target number of ideas must be given recommendations to achieve extra points.
- Timers. Time limits are set for every task involved in the ideation process, sparking creativity and resourcefulness.
- Scoring points. Points are given for every quest and procedure accomplished.
- Teams working together. Employees can be divided into groups to foster collaboration and teamwork.
All of these features are designed to help intensify and speed up the idea generation and collection. When practiced by your organization, this will undoubtedly help promote idea sharing and invite everyone to do so.
Learn more about the other use cases of Accept Mission aside from the idea management campaign with gamification elements.
5. Communicate Effectively
Having a good communication plan is essential if you like to build a culture of idea-sharing within your organization.
For example, a simple dialogue or conversation with others may be considered a part of your ideation “activities”, even if they are not that formal.
That is why asking team managers to communicate and ask specific employees explicitly to join and participate in the process will definitely help in collecting more ideas, even if this is done in an informal setting.
Effective communication also comes into play in acquiring and receiving ideas.
To get high-quality ideas, you have to define the problem well, while to share your idea means having to stay open-minded to comments and suggestions that might come after.
At the same time, it is also going to be important later on in letting your employees know that the best ideas will be turned into projects.
6. Use an Idea Collection Tool
There are plenty of platforms and tools you can use that will allow you to easily collect ideas from employees. For example, there are idea management solutions with features designed to collect ideas online.
Accept Mission has an inbox feature that will allow anyone in your organization to drop their ideas on specific inboxes either with an undercover identity or their real ones. Since your members drop their ideas into specific inboxes, ideas are immediately categorized.
Aside from specialized platforms, you can use conventional ones like:
- Google Docs
- Online notepads
- Online Kanban boards
What is important here is that there is a way for your members to easily drop their ideas, even when they are not at the office.
7. Take Action on the Great Ones
Taking action on the best ideas is perhaps the best way to promote idea-sharing. There are only a few things that are more rewarding than seeing your suggestions getting implemented, and when there is some sort of recognition.
The recognition part does not have to be big. Some ideas include:
- Letting everybody know where the idea came from
- Naming the project or product after the contributor
- Crediting the contributor in published content
This may also have a great effect on the mentality of others. When others see that the ideas matter and those good enough get further developed and implemented, they will also see the value of sharing their own ideas, even without a grand recognition for their contribution.
8. Schedule Regular Brainstorms
A lot of startup software companies regularly do brainstorming sessions. This will enable your members to practice contributing their ideas, which in turn, will give you plenty of innovative ideas to turn into projects.
When we say brainstorming, there are actually two types: physical and digital. Most organizations practice physical brainstorming, which is the traditional way of doing it (gathering around in person at the same time and place).
However, you should also think of implementing digital brainstorming. Some of your users may not be that comfortable with doing it in person. Others may either be shy or afraid of getting ridiculed.
Either way, there are brainstorming tools you can use like:
- Accept Mission
- Miro Online Whiteboard
Another advantage of doing it digitally is that there is no need to meet at the same place at the same time. Anybody can contribute wherever they are. Of course, you should also mix this with other elements like gamification features to spice up the activity.
9. Hold Contests and Challenges for Users
There is a reason why companies hold contests and challenges. It is a great way to the best ideas and solutions in one place and encourages the participants to do their best by giving out rewards for the best ones.
This is one of the features that most open innovation platforms have since this enables organizations to gather ideas from everyone interested in joining the contest.
You can definitely practice this within your organization. Whenever you have a problem or an innovation theme, formalize the idea generation by holding a contest. Of course, it works even better if there was a prize for the winner.
You can also do it informally by simply challenging your members to solve a specific problem by sharing their ideas. Sometimes, all we need is a little challenge to get the blood flowing and get on with it.
10. Build an Innovation-Friendly Culture
An innovation-friendly culture will help your organization stay on top of its competitive advantage. Not to mention that if you couple it with open innovation principles, you are basically getting ideas from everyone.
Here are some suggestions for how you can build such a culture:
- Make sure everybody knows how important innovation is.
- Let your members know how innovation benefits the company including them.
- Accept and embrace all ideas, even radical ones.
Some big companies have problems with this since they usually do not take innovation seriously or they struggle with hierarchically-minded managers and leaders. If you are struggling with this, review some of our best innovation management tips for businesses.
Encourage Idea Sharing
The culture of idea-sharing is important in innovation. If innovation was an engine, ideas would be the fuel. With that analogy, the more ideas you gather, the better, which is why it is extremely important for your members to get comfortable with sharing their ideas.
Once you get this process working, it will generate a positive loop on your overall innovation strategy. As members share more ideas, and more ideas get acted upon, others will get inspired to contribute too, pushing the loop onward.
Next steps: To make this process go more smoothly, you can use innovation software like Accept Mission to help manage the overall innovation process. Make use of the available technology right now to speed up your innovation.
Learn more about the innovation features that Accept Mission has to offer.