It’s not unusual for businesses to spend thousands of dollars to acquire information from third parties on their customers, vendors or partners — all for the sole purpose of finding ways to meet the evolving needs of their stakeholders.
If you look in the right place within your organization, you’ll find that many of your employees readily have that information available and are more than willing to share what they know, saving you the trouble of having to find and pay for third-party services.
1. Why should we encourage employees to share their ideas?
I started my career in IT consulting back in 2006. Much like many other businesses, the company I was working for at that time — an aerospace IT startup in France — had implemented a retreat initiative for their executives.
But with more and more companies looking to add the best talent for even the most menial of tasks, it’s absolutely absurd for a company to completely write-off the ideas of their frontline workers, many of whom have a much more well-rounded and informed perspective than their managers.
And let’s face it — they probably know how to best implement those ideas, as they are the closest to your customers, vendors or partners.
This is but one example of how a good chunk of our modern economy still functions on Taylor’s Principle of Scientific Management, which implies that the manager’s role is to think and the worker’s role is to do.
But we often forget that the intent of these principles was to “convert skilled crafts into a series of simplified jobs that could be performed easily by unskilled workers….”
And that brings us to the question:
As an executive, founder or entrepreneur, how do you leverage this untapped pool of ideas to strengthen and grow your business?
2. What’s the right way to go about encouraging employees to share ideas?
When I was a consultant working at one of the “Big 4” consulting firms, I recall a moment when a few partners came up with an initiative for all the technology practice consultants to engage in a nationwide pitch competition in order to generate the best ideas to help develop our consulting firm.
Being that I had some experience with organizing fun social projects for my co-workers, I was selected to champion this initiative for my local practice. But the first thing that came to my mind was, “Why make this a competition?”
Despite the promise of a substantial reward, the contest didn’t end up fostering ideas that dramatically transformed or expanded the firm’s business, as many employees didn’t see much value in competing with one another.
So my advice here is to keep it simple: Just ask for their ideas. You’ll find that most employees do not need to have equity in your business or need some kind of reward to get them to share their great ideas.
Many executives would be surprised to know just how many employees in any given company are willing to help develop that company’s vision without seeking any reward if that vision is positive and reasonable — most especially in an early stage business or startup.
If you’ve significantly invested in building a work environment where each employee believes and shares your company values, it’s important to trust them to have the best interest of the company in mind when they bring ideas to you.
3. Why do we need to put tools in place to make idea sharing easy and effective?
As you can see, organizing management retreats or hiring third-party consulting firms to conduct an industry survey needn’t be your only source of generating ideas to help improve your company.
In fact, our experience as OdeClouders working to help optimize the ERP of our Netsuite customers has taught us that the most creative ideas for improving a product are most vivid when a client is actively using that product.
Thus, we’ve put our focus into developing a ticketing app directly into Netsuite’s interface, making it easily accessible from any NetSuite screen.
This ticketing app allows end users to not only submit requests for support, but to also submit ideas of NetSuite optimizations that would help streamline and accelerate key business processes.
Below are a few things we’ve developed recently for our customers from employee ideas:
- A custom suitlet to accelerate data entry and eliminate input errors on vendor bills for a large PO. Reducing time in this process means paying bills faster and getting good discounts from vendors, which could be a significant amount of cash saved when running a multi-million dollar business.
- A NetSuite portal allowing our clients to better coordinate sales, procurement, production and logistics operations. Providing access to real-time sales information to the factory (3rd party/vendor) contracted for production has allowed our client to dramatically increase accuracy in their delivery ETAs to end customers.
- A custom suitelet to increase system performance for warehouse operations by handling most work order tasks within NetSuite, replacing RFSmart integration. A faster warehouse process means more orders out during the day, hence more happy customers.
We’ve only recently released a public version of our NetSuite “idea sharing” app.
Feel free to contact us for a free demo and install!