How do you encourage employees to share ideas?

How do you encourage employees to share ideas?

This is the second of a series of weekly posts where I will answer a few common questions about innovation. Please feel free to add your own response. Also, if you have any questions you think we should discuss, let me know.

Good ideas can come from anywhere, but just asking for them doesn’t mean everyone will speak their minds. I think this is where a gap exists between activating innovation and simply talking about it. It’s also why it is important for leaders to be open and share their thought process with others to encourage dialogue.

Beyond the Here are a few more ways:

  • One-on-one. There are some people who will not talk in front of others. They prefer to talk in private to tell you about their ideas. It is up to you, the leader, to encourage them and let them know that you have their ear.
  • Share your own. If you are the Leader, and people respect you, they will listen and follow your actions. Set the example and open it up.
  • Ask for ideas before the brainstorm. Brainstorming sessions, if not facilitated, can be a waste of time for some people. I encourage people to come with ideas before the brainstorm sessions and then present them. This way everyone gets to express themselves and be listened to.
  • Creating as requirement for hire. This is a little extreme, but if you set a policy where people have to create something as a hiring requirement, it sends a signal to people that they are required to be both creative and innovative. You are basically saying: “There is no holding back here. We expect you to do.”
  • Reward risk-taking. There are some people, myself included, who will go above and beyond simply talking about their idea. Their way of sharing their idea will be in the form of prototypes and sketches. Or, they will simply act on the idea before telling anybody about it and will tell you what they found. This preemptive strike attitude is not for everyone, but it is very useful and I think it should be rewarded.

There are many more, you probably have a more to add, but the point is that it really depends on context and trust. If people don’t feel safe to speak up, they’ll never do.

Your turn, how do you encourage employees to share their ideas?

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  • Rahul Patwardhan

    I think a lot of this depends on the company culture & size. If the leaders are keeping communication open, employees does not have any difficulty to share their ideas & views.

    • Hi Rahul,

      Yes open communication and transparency is key.

      I know of a few companies that say they welcome ideas but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will share them. So there you have a different challenge.

      For the most part, leaders should embody the type of behavior they are asking for. Wild-eyed, crazy and challenging the status-quo ideas should be the norm. This is, as you said, a cultural distinction.

      Thanks for the comment Rahul,


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