This guest post has been contributed by Simon Hill, CEO of Wazoku
In tough economic times, differentiating your business from the competition grows ever more important. One of the most effective way of doing this is through good ideas and innovation – a new product, a new way of using social media, anything that helps your organisation stand out from the crowd. This is especially so for SMEs, who are not only competing with eachother but with larger organisations with more time, money and resources.
But the suggestion that one brilliant idea will emerge, fully-formed and ready to transform your business is flawed. Ideas need work and collaboration. Creativity can emerge from anywhere within an organisation and at any time. Why can’t an engineer come up with a great way of using social media for your business, who is to say that HR can’t be creative about marketing? Interns and work experience placements, with their fresh and uncluttered take on a business can be a valuable source of ideas.
But whilst businesses are rarely short on good ideas, it is easy for those good ideas to get lost in someone’s inbox or forgotten after a conversation during a coffee break. Here are our tips to ensure this doesn’t happen in your business.
Foster a culture of ideas and innovation, where people aren’t afraid of putting forward an idea and know that it will get heard when they do. Most people’s job does not have a specific remit to come up with new ideas so the the boss needs to ensure that their staff know it is ok to make suggestions and give them the confidence to do so.
Reward the best ideas. This can be informal – a monthly bottle of champagne for the best idea or £50 vouchers for a shop of people’s choosing – or something that is incorporated into a company’s official HR policy. This might involve measuring how many ideas are put forward or the volume that actually come to fruition into employees’ objectives, with their career development measured (and rewarded) on that basis. Whichever approach is chosen, incentivising ideas will encourage people to come forward.
Provide somewhere for people to submit ideas. The traditional company suggestion box has rightly gone the way of the fax machine but there are modern equivalents that do the job of capturing ideas far better. This can be done with bespoke idea software, that lets people comment on ideas, discuss them and vote on the best ones, emails to the boss, company intranets or indeed whatever system you think most appropriate for you. As long as people know the boss is receptive to new ideas and that there is a place for those ideas to be submitted then they will begin to flow.
Be open. This is perhaps the most important point. Few ideas are perfectly conceived as a concept, but by allowing all ideas to be open and discoverable, businesses dramatically increase the chance of an idea finding the relevant expert or group to build on it, merge it with other similar ideas and help to realise the true value.