Your organization is filled with people who have great ideas to make things run better. The problem is, most of that innovation goes unheard, and therefore untapped. Why? Because people may not think their idea is worthy of consideration, or they simply don’t know where to go with it.
People love the show Shark Tank because they love seeing the little guy with the big idea find believers who will stand behind him and invest in his dream. Your employees are really no different. They would love nothing more than to have the sharks (senior leaders) value their ideas enough to help test them and bring them to fruition.
A culture of innovation doesn’t happen by default – it must be fostered by design. That means having a mechanism in place to solicit and nurture ideas without discouraging creativity.
More Then a Mechanism
About a year ago I was working with an organization on culture transformation. We fostered ideas to increase employee engagement. When I talked to them about idea generation they assured me they had a mechanism in place, but no one participated. When I looked at their system and talked with employees, I learned why no one bothered. The process discouraged submission. The paperwork required was more complex than a government grant application. Even an MBA would be intimidated. Their process was equivalent to putting a fifth grader in front of the Sharks. Brutal and extremely lopsided.
What you can borrow from Shark Tank is the opportunity for the little guy to present the big idea. What you want to ditch is the interrogation and intimidation. Remember, not everyone with a valuable idea knows how to calculate ROI or do a cost/benefit analysis. That is why it is important to build in a mechanism that will allow someone with a bright idea to express his thoughts in his own language. Let him or her explain the vision of “what” and “why.” Then, let the analysts answer the questions of “how” and “how much.”
Instead of asking someone to write the equivalent of a doctoral dissertation, get the high level information and then allow the person to talk through their idea. If you squelch people’s enthusiasm, you’ll miss the real pearls of wisdom from the frontline.