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5 things you can do NOW to forge an ideation team

5 things you can do NOW to forge an ideation team

We’ve all worked in an organization where ideas were handed down by those at the top and implemented by those at the bottom. Maybe you’re ‘Top Dog’ now and you feel it’s your responsibility to drive agency growth through new ideas and innovation.
After all, that’s what strong leadership is all about, right?

Wrong.

Eighty percent of the best ideas within a company come from an organization’s workforce. Leadership is about facilitating the flow of ideas within the organization, acting on those ideas and continually supporting and hiring smart front line managers who do the same. Too often, ego and jockeying for advancement get in the way of tapping the knowledge and “on the ground” experience of employees.

Andrew Carnegie didn’t let his ego stop him from becoming one of the richest and most successful men of his day. He is so well known for his humility and emphasis on the success of his employees that his tombstone reads: “Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself”.

He relied on his employees to be the idea generators and wasn’t afraid to ask questions and learn from them. Business consultants Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder couldn’t agree more. Here’s what they see as the biggest problem in corporate culture today: executives fail to connect the ideas of their employees with innovation and big wins for their companies.

See, your employees are the ones who interact with customers and implement all the day-to-day systems and processes. If anyone were to know where improvements and efficiencies could be made, or what the customers complain about the most, it’s them. Stop relying on consultants, you’ve got your best idea generators in-house.
If you’re not used to this way of thinking (as most of corporate America is not), you probably don’t have a system in place to tap your employees for ideas or even encourage them to form new ideas in the first place.

Here’s what you can do TODAY to start turning on the flow of ideas:

1. Stop micromanaging – again, the top-down approach stifles ideas. Inserting yourself in every step of the process can actually slow things down and sends the message that it’s always got to be done your way. Let you’re front-line managers organize and execute projects and report back with where they see gaps and needs.

2. Hire grounded managers – those who know how to work well with others and are most interested in the success and development of departments and employees. Big picture thinkers who are not just about themselves.

3. If you aren’t already, start interacting with staff members regularly. If you don’t make yourself available to them, the flow of communication gets cut off. Let them know that you’re looking for their best ideas and reward them for it.

4. Start each day by listening – to all levels of employee. Either start a simple suggestion box that you look through daily, encourage emails that you reply to personally or schedule regular meetings. The more they see you have invested time and attention to their particular roles and experiences, they’ll start trusting you. Once they know that you care and want to make their jobs easier and more productive, they’ll tell you exactly how to do that from their vantage point.

5. Be very clear that you are an idea-generating organization. Name things accordingly – schedule an “idea generation meeting”, put up an “idea board”, and hold “idea contests” with appropriate and motivating prizes. Encouraging the flow of ideas should be one of your top priorities.

Many organizations have a hard time implementing idea systems. It goes against corporate culture and the “I know best” management style. The good news is that this system has already proven itself for companies around the world, including J.P. Morgan, Brasilata, Clarion-Stockholm and Scania. It’s time to shift the culture.
Increased global competition and technology driven business demands that we shift away from top-down management to idea-driven organizations. You’ve got your best ideas in-house. Start encouraging them now.