Many companies have a suggestion box, usually in the break room or somewhere visible, but out of the way. Perhaps a simple box with slips of paper and a pencil nearby, perhaps a wooden box with a prominent sign, it’s a common but little-used fixture of the office. That’s not because your team lacks ideas, though; it’s because the suggestion box is outmoded.
What’s In A Box?
There are two fundamental problems with the old-school suggestion box. It’s a metaphorical black box, and it uses outdated methods and technologies. To get a sense of the first, ask your team what they think happens to suggestions put in the box. In fact, see if they even know who’s responsible for the suggestion box. It’s unlikely anybody will know; you might even get a few people asking if you even have a suggestion box.
Understanding the second problem is simple. When was the last time, when you had a thought you wanted somebody else to act on, that you wrote it down on paper and left it somewhere for them to read at their convenience? Pencil and paper are still useful, sturdy technologies, but their uses have changed. If you need to remind your spouse to buy milk or prompt your team member to follow up on something, you probably send them a text or an email.
So, how do we modernize the suggestion box?
From Box To System
The key is to adopt innovation management systems. These have several advantages over the suggestion box. First, they offer custom levels of transparency; when a suggestion is made, the entire company can watch it go from rough idea to finished result. This not only offers motivation to offer ideas, but it also teaches everyone how your organization approaches innovation.
Second, it gives all stakeholders a voice. Instead of word being handed down from on high, various teams will be able to offer their two cents and help refine ideas, offering new perspectives along the way and helping to break down silos.
Third, it can cater to the comfort levels of each employee. Not everyone is self-confident enough to write an idea down and have it read by their team leader, or even somebody well above their leader. So you can configure the platform to offer anonymous submissions, confidential submissions, and other approaches.
Finally, it offers a clear, visible archive of ideas. One of the fundamental struggles of any innovation strategy is institutional knowledge; somebody will come in with a great idea, but somebody who’s been with the company for a while might remember why it wasn’t implemented last time. Allowing your team to anticipate obstacles and deal with them in their plans will not only make their ideas more successful but will help highlight areas of company culture and design that can do with some innovation themselves.
None of this is to denigrate the spirit of the suggestion box. Asking your team for help, feedback, and ideas will always be a good idea, whether it’s a box in the break room or a modern software platform. It’s just that the software platform will be more effective, and rewarding, for everyone. To learn more about innovation management systems and how they work, request a demo today!