What becomes possible when you offer your employees an anonymous suggestion box? When you widen the scope of the traditional idea generation to encourage employees to freely send their thoughts?
At VoiceSifter we see incredible ideas arrive through actionable feedback with our digital solution for an anonymous feedback line.
While it seems like a no-brainer today, Amazon's idea for free, two-day shipping with Prime once looked like a risk. History validates taking that risk, but the origin of Prime membership came from their employees' ability to share ideas for innovation. Amazon's employee suggestion program not only encouraged ideas but made them visible to the top-level of the company. When an engineer at Amazon named Charlie Ward used the company’s digital suggestion platform to propose fast, free shipping, Jeff Bezos saw this basic concept, loved it, and Prime was born.
On the flip side, imagine if Xerox had recognized the personal computer's novel value when developed there and didn't let it slip by so Steve Jobs and Apple could take that concept and change the tech landscape forever.
The Shyness Obstacle
We’ve written about the need to ditch a physical suggestion box and go digital, but what about anonymity? Think back on your years in school and college, and you might recall how relatively few student voices take up most of a dialogue -- it's the Pareto principle applied to conversation where 20% contribute 80% of the ideas. Yet employees know their specific areas in a company or organization better than almost anyone due to day-to-day familiarity. Many of these same employees are like quiet students who have the answer but fear saying the "wrong" thing and risking vulnerability.
We should encourage everyone to risk vulnerability sharing their creativity in a positive environment that still respects their privacy.
The Recognition Solution
One way to flip the paradigm toward 80% of employees sharing ideas for innovation is through the safety of an anonymous digital feedback platform that can be accessed via smartphone when inspiration strikes. Suppose it's a great idea to help your business, and you use a tool like VoiceSifter's text message platform that allows for a two-way conversation. In that case, most employees will self-identify once their suggestion gets a positive response. Who wouldn't want to share credit for an idea that inspires others and might create a competitive advantage?
A Harvard Business Review article examined how this issue isn't the shortage of enough employee ideas to fill a suggestion box, but the lack of a democratized way to find those ideas. The article touts a company named Rite-Solutions as a model for their "idea market." This idea market is "a system based on the assumption that everyone in the company already has great ideas, and the market just makes [Rite-Solutions] better at finding those ideas" by letting the entire organization share and approve them.
It's not a revelation to say that listening to employees is powerful. But it's important to note where biases exist. Just because employees don't run up to management and owners to share ideas doesn't mean the next Amazon Prime concept doesn't exist for your organization. They do exist and in surprising numbers.
So consider some form of an employee suggestion program to make it easier for your business to act on the next great idea.