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How to encourage Good ideas

How to get Good ideas Image by Matthew Broomhead

Something major has happened in the UK since my last Article and the repercussions will be felt for the next decade, not just in the UK but across our European allies. The naivety of some people in this country has become disturbingly apparent and to see so called Leaders immediately recall promises that were made before the vote, is extremely disappointing, at best.

But let’s take a breath and what is done is done.

What I have been talking about for a while is that we all need to develop our skills and ensure that whatever changes happen in the UK economy, we are seen as the experts and clients still need the value we offer. What happened last Thursday just significantly accelerated that process.

As leaders we need to create reassurance and certainty in the marketplace for our clients. We also need to ensure the organisations we are currently investing our trust, time and effort in are able to maintain their value offering in the future, whatever happens. If we are unsure if they will, then now is the time to find something that will.

More than ever we need to be creating opportunities and coming up with good ideas.

How do I get good ideas?

Where do good ideas come from? How do we encourage new thinking? If you asked people in your organisation “when was the last time you had a good idea and where were you?”, then what answer would they give?

I’m suggesting that they probably won’t say “oh it was sitting at my desk with over 39 hours of paperwork that still needs to be done, listening to the phone ringing and getting interrupted by email”. It is more likely that people typically have new ideas when they were in the shower, out walking the dog, in a quiet place at home away from the family, or away from their desk when they had some quiet time to think. So how well is your organisation setup to actually let people think?

1) Not allowed to work on current project

Google and some other companies have famously created time where a percentage of an employee’s week is allocated so that they are not allowed to do work on any of their current projects. They can work on anything they want as long as it isn’t their normal day job activities. A number of Google products have been created from scratch with this process.

Another software company in Australia had a 24 hour period where developers were encouraged to create anything they wanted and then shared those ideas altogether with the rest of the company. The company owns the IP on anything that’s created, so it is very beneficial.

Just forget the logistics of doing that for a moment and really think what could happen if a director initiated this where none of the team could work one afternoon on any current projects, but had to come up with new ideas for improving the company and share those ideas with everyone. I’m just curious, would that exercise create more management thinking or more leadership thinking? And for your business to grow which one do you actually need?

2) Reward and recognise staff for good ideas

I visited a multimillion turnover manufacturing business and one of their initiatives was rewarding staff for coming up with new ideas. Any new idea that was suggested was rewarded financially with a set amount of money, whether the idea was used or not. This was for virtually any new idea that could be practically applied. For an idea that was implemented and made a profit for the company, then a percentage of that profit was shared with the person that had the idea. Whether it saves £500 or makes £150,000, new ideas are what are needed in this fluctuating economic climate. It’s surely better to have a choice of which ideas to implement, than no ideas or contributions from within the organisation.

3) Flexible working

There are some fantastic TEDtalks about the work environment. If your team were really open and honest with you, and you asked them “when have you got the most amount of work done?” and “when have you been the most productive?” The most common answer will NOT be “Sitting at my desk, being interrupted by the phone”.

We usually get the most done when we switch off the phone and don’t open email. It is usually when we are away from the desk and/or office. If this is true for your organisation, then what could you be doing to create more of this productive time? How do you ensure that the environment your team works in helps them to provide the best service to their clients?

Many people find they get more done by going in early to work before 8am, staying late at night after 6pm when the office is empty or working at the weekend. But this is limited in its effectiveness as people tend to do too many hours which then leads to them being less productive during that additional time.

Imagine that you were attending one of my talks that I was delivering in an organisation. While I am sharing valuable insights and ideas to become a better leader, every five minutes my phone goes off and I answer it. How would you feel? How conducive would the learning be?

Therefore how useful is it to allow phones to interrupt our teams?

I am not suggesting you disconnect all the office phones tomorrow morning. If you have SLA service level agreements, then someone will have to answer the phone and take messages. But what if someone could have 45 minutes of uninterrupted time? They have set times of the day when they return calls and check email, and that’s staggered between the team, so the phones are always covered. Just think about the potential productivity that would happen if they could go into a side office uninterrupted and just focus?

So what would be easier for you, a team that goes home saying “I have no idea where the day went today, I was busy but didn’t seem to get anything done”, or “I felt that I have achieved something today”?

The best Leaders will not join your organisations because they want to answer the phone, email and get interrupted from what they are doing. Leaders want to achieve; fix problems; build relationships; Inspire; create ideas and create duplication of their efforts. The environment you create will either encourage this or prevent it.

Matthew Broomhead
“Raising the level of Business Skills in Britain”
Creator of Broomhead Business Channel

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