It is sometimes difficult for the top line managers to recognize that ideas can flow from all levels of their organization. These need not be major strategic initiatives but can be related to useful, cost-saving proposals that can contribute to more profits. But sometimes big ideas and visions can be generated from unexpected sources. This has been proven historically on numerous occasions. Many of the most useful inventions were the result of accidental juxtapositions of elements in the laboratory or manufacturing floor that produced unexpected results. The people behind these breakthroughs did not necessarily possess the status within the company to be initially noticed.
Creating an environment where everyone’s input is welcomed and appreciated encourages this type of unsolicited response. Small businesses, with their limited resources, can be great beneficiaries of this kind of openness. It is a matter of attitude. Opening the door to innovations by removing inherent hierarchical biases can be achieved by following these useful tips:
Set a personal example – Share your thoughts and ideas with others, who have the expertise or specialized knowledge to enhance those ideas. Open yourself up through brainstorming sessions, where out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged and given serious consideration. These ideas can fall on receptive ears that will transform them into a practical plan.
Encourage new initiatives – If you initially disagree with an idea or proposal, allow it to be aired out in the presence of more people, and get their opinion. Be open to massaging new ideas that others consider worthy of attention and further review, even if this is contrary to your own current viewpoint.
Optimize ideas – One of the best ways of achieving this is to establish a preliminary SWOT profile that analyzes the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This adds more value to the ideas and quickly assesses viability.
Lean to the positive – Some managers tend to be nay-Sayers, who generally lean towards negative interpretations. Allow the most seemingly outlandish ideas to get a serious hearing if there is even a remote chance that it may succeed. Speed up the assessment by sharing the idea with others so that a quick consensus can be reached on its merits.
Remove hierarchical bias – Don’t restrict the flow of new ideas to the top ranks of managers. Some of them become quite removed from the procedures and processes that matter when it comes to cost savings, and improvements in efficiencies. Let the lower ranks have a say through quality circles, or other employee groupings by providing an appropriate forum for their thoughts and inputs.
Create an atmosphere of mutual trust – Overbearing managers have a hard time in soliciting ideas because they often frighten employees into thinking that they somehow may be subject to unwanted criticism or rebuke for their proposals. Operating with a lighter touch is a more adept way of flushing out new ideas. Adding a sense of humor, and avoiding any hint of sarcasm will put all employees at ease.
Reward new ideas – There is no company that will succeed over the long term without encouraging innovation at all levels of the organization. Providing incentives tied to ideas that convert to actual benefits for the company raises the motivational level and encourages a broader participation. The incentive can be tied to a one-time monetary reward or some form of share participation. This is the choice of many high tech companies operating in very competitive markets where innovations form the cornerstones of their progressive strategies.