When was the last time you had a productive meeting at work? One without personal tangents, biases, or business partners advocating for their own idea rather than working together towards goals?
Unfortunately, it has probably been a long time since that has happened, if ever. A sad reality at most offices is that not all voices are equal. Leaders have only so much time and resources—listening only to the loudest or most persistent ideas is not the way to go. So how can you encourage all your employees to share higher quality ideas together?
1. Expect Feedback
As a leader, it is important to establish that you value and expect feedback from your employees. Ideas should be encouraged and employees should feel comfortable speaking up and sharing ideas with their peers and leaders. It may take time to get to this point, but it should be a goal of any business interested in innovation.
2. Have the Right Attitude
You also, as a leader, need be able to admit that you do not always have the right answers to accomplish your goals. But together as an organization, you can collaborate to accomplish the right solution.
When listening to ideas and feedback, always remember that it is about accomplishing the bigger goal rather than advocating for your own idea. While it can be challenging to let go of your own ideas at times, but creating an environment for continuous improvement requires a leader that can see the value of employee ideas.
3. Supporting Desired Ideas
One of the most effective ways to get constructive ideas is to support only great ideas. Employees will see that calibre of ideas supported by leaders and will then strive to produce those ideas as well. This is particularly important at the beginning of your innovation program or campaign where employees do not necessarily know what kind of ideas you are looking for.
4. Be Accountable
Leaders that build a culture of innovation know that executing ideas is the key to maintaining a pipeline of high quality of ideas from employees. Employees do not want to see their ideas wasted, so make sure that ideas that are feasible are executed and outcomes are communicated back to the community in a timely fashion.
5. Tap into Influencers
Influencers can have a huge impact on the quality of ideas as often they are the first to adopter or participants in new initiatives. These are individuals that your employees respect and they value their opinions. As a leader, make it a top priority to identify hidden influencers and not only model the type of behaviour you would like to see from your other employees on them, but also use them to drive awareness of the innovation program.
6. Be Constructive
While you should be supporting ideas that you would like to see, you should also be constructive about other ideas that need some work. Help employees refocus their efforts on accomplishing goals as opposed to venting their frustrations. Some ideas need more assistance than others, and by helping employees see their bias, you can help all your employees develop high quality ideas.
7. Celebrating Success
Finally, re-engage employees by sharing successful ideas that have been implemented or are about to be implemented. Celebrate success and recognize employees for their ideas and effort towards implementing ideas. It shows them that their suggestions and ideas have a real business impact, and more importantly, their voices are being heard and acted upon. Show that you value their ideas and watch the value of their ideas increase as well.
image credit: Mike Linksvayer
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Jacqueline Zhou is the innovation expert at SoapBox Innovations, a SaaS innovation management company. An avid believer in tapping into the collective genius of communities, she shares her innovation insights on the SoapBox Innovations blog and @SoapBoxHQ