The New Cocktail Napkin is Digital

suggestion boxThroughout the years, methods of gathering ideas have run the gamut. From the aforementioned cocktail napkin to the erstwhile suggestion box, these methods have mostly fallen by the wayside as their respective levels of effectiveness have gone down. Recent studies have shown that only 2-3% of ideas in a suggestion box system are ever implemented. Obviously that rate isn’t a glowing recommendation for suggestion boxes.

Those same studies have investigated why suggestion boxes are so ineffective. One of the reasons is the incredibly low rate of implementation, which doesn’t signal to employees that their input and ideas are valued. Several of the reasons relate to the lack of structure: once inside the suggestion box, employees have no idea what happens next; no recognition or reward built into the suggestion box structure; there’s no discernible way to broadcast improvements. These same issues are true of most old school methods of gathering ideas.

When you boil it down, the reasons that old methods haven’t survived is because they weren’t scalable, transparent, or collaborative, which are three things that are essential to innovation today. They are also more easily accommodated by digital platforms. Recognition and reward are easier with digital platforms; in fact, even something like upvotes for your idea is a way of getting recognition that is not possible with old methods. Having an outlined and organized plan for what happens once ideas are submitted is also built into digital platforms, so that employees know the process. Digital platforms also give you very quick ideas of quantitative data: how many individual users are participating in the process, how many ideas have been submitted, how many have been implemented. Moving from a small campaign—say, one for a single department—to a larger campaign—say, for the whole organization—is much simpler to manage with a thoughtful digital option. However, just moving the inefficient models to the digital stage is not enough; the digital platforms must also consider scalability, transparency, and collaboration as outlined above in order to be more effective than their idea-gathering ancestors.

We’ve all undoubtedly utilized some less-than-efficient methods of idea-gathering. What are the worst methods that you have used to collect ideas? If you can narrow it down to one sentence, share with us by entering this competition, and you will be entered for a chance to win an Apple Watch.

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