Have you ever been queued at a bar waiting for your turn to order a drink? The service is so slow that you give up on drinks!
Then, as you head out, a bartender’s friend high-fives them and immediately gets his drink served. That’s crazy. Yet, all too familiar because it’s a great illustration of bias. To limit bias, the bartender should treat everyone the same, right?
Favoritism and situations like the one we just described are still too common in many workplaces. Some employees, when managing ideas, get more space than their peers to voice their thoughts and ideas.
In our experience, we have learned that companies must proactively manage these biases to achieve long-term, sustainable results from their ideation initiatives.
Idea management processes should proactively address this.
Bias is the act of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing unfairly. Most leaders, myself included, have fallen victim to bias at some point in their careers.
Favoritism is not always a switch you can turn off. Sometimes it happens unconsciously.
Think about it for a second. Isn’t it easier to approve ideas from like-minded team members?
Working with people with whom you share more interests and whose company you enjoy the most is also easier.
Growing global competition, challenges, and constraints require that all businesses strive to make their processes and operations more agile. Incorporating employee ideas and insights is crucial to this venture.
Consulting firms focused on continuous improvement are valuable allies, but even then, employees need to be engaged in implementing the firm’s recommendations to achieve sustainable implementations.
About 70% of business transformations fail, and in our experience, lack of change management and employee inclusion is typically a factor in their demise.
How, then, can you engage employees since the beginning of your quest to build better businesses?
First, you must avoid replicating our Bar story ordeal, or else your employees will opt out of contributing ideas and insights. They will be prone to thinking that only a specific, preferred group of employees will get their ideas approved.
Idea-gathering efforts must be decentralized and easy for employees to contribute. When Managing ideas, the process will yield better results when closely aligned with your company’s goals and vision.
Your idea management process is pivotal to success
A global reference for managing ideas for continuous improvement is Toyota. The international manufacturer implements about 9 ideas per year, according to Norman Bodek’s book titled All You Gotta Do is Ask.
Using Toyota as a benchmark, Bodek showcases the relationship between the quality of an idea management process and the results obtained. Including frontline workers in the ideation process is foundational to getting great ideas and results.
Fashion retailer, ZARA, is another excellent case study on the importance of ideas to business success.
The global fashion brand has made gathering ideas and turning them into products a pivotal part of its business model.
Some fashion brands manufacture up to 60% of their season’s collection before it begins. On the other hand, ZARA only designs 15-25% of their designs during the same period.
The company relies on employee and store manager feedback and continuous communication with the fashion design team to develop the rest of its seasonal collections.
Once a new model has been developed, their agile manufacturing and logistic processes can have the item in the store’s racks in a stunning 25 days.
According to researchers, up to 80% of the ideas that transform businesses come from frontline workers.
Transformational ideas are only possible when company leaders take an active and continuous role in sponsoring ideation and employee creativity. Businesses must develop an idea management process with the proper steps and resources to turn employee ideas into business-impacting results.
Transform employee ideas into results using these four steps to improve the quality of your company’s operations and workplace environment.
1. Decentralize Your Idea Management Strategy
No one likes favorites unless the favorite is oneself! To successfully run a company-wide idea program, you need to listen, accept and implement ideas from all levels and areas of your company.
Brad Power describes this very well in his article “How Toyota Pulls Improvement from the Front Line“:
“Managers are skeptical that workers will do what’s best for the company and not just for them. That attitude obstructs any severe initiative to solicit worker feedback. The mindset is that managers have all the answers and their jobs dictate them — not to learn from workers.”– Brad Power
Yolanda Lassalle, Murmuratto’s CEO, describes this phenomenon as embedded prejudice.
She says leaders must design idea and insight collection efforts to be inclusive and to use a process that limits bias and allows everyone to contribute qualitatively.
One key piece of this puzzle is decentralizing the idea evaluation process. Ideas must be submitted and evaluated using the same process and criteria for all. This is a crucial step to limit conscious and unconscious bias.
MurmurattoTM‘s software and framework design pay particular attention to developing an idea management process that allows ideas to go through an equitable idea submittal and evaluation process.
Beyond boosting your company or team’s productivity, MurmurattoTM can be part of your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy.
2. When Managing Ideas Make it Simple to Make it Better
It is still commonly believed that businesses will get better results from sophisticated and complex processes developed by brilliant leaders.
One problem, though- the more complex your process, the harder it is for employees to participate in creativity and share their insights.
At MurmurattoTM, we pursue simple methods because we believe the next idea might be the next great idea.
Every idea program must follow a process, but no one wants to engage in a tedious process with innumerable filters.
Think about customer satisfaction surveys, for example. Have you ever opened the link to a survey thinking it would only take up 30-60 seconds of your time?
You answer the first question and click next. Then, you click next, again, and again in what seems to be a never-ending survey.
The person in charge of the survey should not ask 100 questions to an employee who tries to propose an idea.
It would help if you had flexible software to ask for employees’ correct and vital information. Software that meets these criteria will help you better understand and evaluate their ideas.
3. Recognize Employees for Their Contributions
Ideas should benefit organizations and the employees who come up with them. Yolanda says rewarding employees is essential, but sometimes the most crucial thing is employee recognition.
When you recognize an employee for their contribution, you are simultaneously making him valued and reemphasizing a feeling of collaboration.
Establishing equitable standards for idea recognition leads to a better workplace environment.
Equity and transparency motivate employees to participate in ideation. These elements give employees the same access as the CEO to submit ideas and get recognized for their impact.
As a digital productivity tool, MurmurattoTM facilitates employee recognition by documenting who submitted an idea and when.
4. Promoting Employee Participation is not Hype; it Needs to be a Mindset
Every idea management process has its entropy. If leaders are not mindful of promoting active employee participation, their ideas and efforts will not succeed in the long run.
This is why it is essential to embed opportunities and spaces that allow idea generation to become part of your organization’s culture.
When managing ideas, a process should drive results. Companies should collect and implement ideas to achieve company goals and address needs.
This focus will increase the number of approved ideas and impact your key performance metrics (KPIs) and goals.
“Sharing the company’s targets, needs, and context to understand them will facilitate company-wide alignment on these topics”.Shigeo Shingo, Director of the Lean Insitute
When employees are motivated and trained to understand the value of their ideas, you will start to see a mindset shift that will improve the quality of ideas and increase employee participation.
Many idea-generation efforts fail due to a lack of action and leadership bias, among other things. Evident favoritism affects the trustworthiness of leaders- this creates gaps in leadership performance.
Limiting favoritism and bias will help you listen to the unique point of view of employees, who will help you increase the diversity of thought and improve your company’s performance.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the idea management process as part of our ongoing research. Leave a post or reach out to us to discuss ideas within your organization!