Expectation Management: Understanding the “No”

expectation managementSometimes companies are afraid to launch a crowdsourced innovation program, because they’re afraid that they’ll have to deliver on an avalanche of ideas. And although it’s true that organizations often see an outpouring of ideas from their employees, high levels of innovation are hardly correlated with the ability to deliver on every idea – they are instead related to an organization’s ability to identify and deliver on a few of the most promising ideas.

This means that you’re going to end up saying “no” a lot. But that doesn’t have to be off-putting for your community if you’re good at closing the loop. Queensland Police described their “if not, why not” policy in their innovation community. Essentially the community administrators made a pledge to their community that they would close the loop on all ideas so that if an idea wasn’t accepted or it didn’t get implemented, that they would articulate a reason and share it with everyone in the community.

The result is that their community members have returned to participate over and over again in their innovation community. Even if the participant didn’t want to hear “no,” they had felt heard and they had a reason why their idea hadn’t progressed and they moved on to other ideas.

It reminds me of a study conducted in 2009 that explored some early findings that stated “Citizens are more willing to pay taxes when they perceive that their preferences are properly taken into account by public institutions. Along these lines, the existing evidence suggests the existence of a causal relationship between citizen participation processes and levels of tax compliance.” In other words, if people feel heard, they’re more likely to buy into the system as a whole.

So if you truly listen, if you can manage expectations and clarify why some ideas progress and some are moved into a “not now” category, you’ll not only save yourself time for the best ideas, but you’ll build trust with your community who will return again the next time they have a new idea.

To learn more about how The Queensland Police have built an innovation program that’s improving the workplace and saving lives, download their presentation from Open Nation.

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