It could be said that the crux of innovation is thinking of something new, but in fact, innovation can only be found in the doing of something new.
And it is in the transition from thinking to doing that far too many innovative ideas go to the hill to die, so to speak.
As many as 60% of CEOs in the United States stated that ‘creativity is the most important leadership quality that they look for,’ but nearly 20% of employees stated that they would never share their creative ideas with their managers? And this might be because of a fear of going unheard.
How Employee Ideas Make An Impact
Front line workers are truly the heartbeat of any business. They live and breathe the operations, keeping forward momentum day-to-day and also experiencing inefficiencies in real-time. Knowing the nuances of the business itself, employees that are experiencing the issue have most certainly also considered the solutions.
Given the opportunity to offer new ideas, most employees will have considerable insight into productivity, efficiencies, and the strengths and challenges of the business itself. Research shows that acquiring diverse perspectives from every level of a business helps improve innovation and to satisfy employees by valuing their insight.
Why Employees Don’t Speak Up with Ideas
Today’s work culture has become one of short-termism and tends to focus on more immediate, short-term results without consideration for long-term innovation or problem solving (until it’s a real problem).
A recent paper, published in Organization Science shows that managers are often put in impossible positions, facing two clear hurdles: no autonomy to make decisions and pressure to conform to short-term considerations. Without the ability to effect change, employees see less of a reason to speak up, fearing rejection or discipline for sharing.
Ultimately, employees are unlikely to speak up without the encouragement and space to confidently share ideas.
What is Voice Cultivation?
To change this tone, a social movement called voice cultivation is making waves — “the collective, social process through which employees help lower-power team members’ voiced ideas reach implementation.”
This practice helps to reconceptualize the collective voice within a business, encouraging new ideas and brainstorming while also creating a collective sense of value within the team.
There are five key tactics used to keep employees feeling confident and motivated to share their ideas, and can also help to resuscitate old ideas that have been overlooked:
Amplifying means to echo and repeat good ideas if they were overlooked, missed, or not valued, and to also amplify and credit the person who shared the idea. Highlighting concepts repeatedly helps to ensure a little top-of-mind awareness with decision-makers.
A famous example of this comes from within the Obama Administration, where notably, when one woman on the team made a key point, another woman would repeat and give credit for the idea. This silent alliance forced all members of the team to recognize the idea and prevent them from claiming it as their own at a later time.
Support the development and understanding of the group by asking clarifying questions that help to further conceptualize the idea and strategize for its success. This tactic is particularly well known when teams from different positions come together to communicate.
Developing the conversation helps ensure that ideas and concepts are legible and transparent across the entire team.
There is strength in numbers, and the same applies to supporting a new idea. Vouching for ideas that feel legitimate and credible is critical to the success of that idea.
By legitimizing the concept with examples, case studies, similar situations, and allied support, a layer of speculation can be lifted, and ideas can be considered more realistically for implementation.
If an employee’s role carries considerably less authority than any others, it can be difficult to prove your concept or to take the initiative to demonstrate your idea in real-time. Slowly collecting a supporting case and data collected from day-to-day work can keep ideas alive and prompt further discussions about the real-time results.
Issue raising is not necessarily about silencing a solution because of the issue but rather bringing the idea to the table, publicly naming any inefficiencies or weaknesses, and offering them up for creative problem-solving.
This tactic can help to soundboard solutions and generate idea allies. Addressing concerns publicly helps to iron them out early in discussions and bring perceived roadblocks to the table early.
Creating a buzz in the office and offering a space to confidently share ideas or long-term solutions is one that’s cultivated over time and has the whole team on board to be innovative and impactful.
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