Wednesday, 29 October 2014

"I want an Idea every Tuesday Morning"

All of us know that creative and innovative ideas are needed for the growth of the organization. No matter how smart we are,  we don't know everything . Ideas are precious, but hard to find . 

Here in this post , I present a couple of real life situations which will make us realize why we make it either difficult or easy for the employees to be innovative and give creative suggestions.  The situations are suggestive and I hope self explanatory. 

Situation 1 

"I want an idea every Tuesday Morning ... " the boss roared.  

"Senior managers like you should be innovative . Where are your ideas ?  "

Tuesdays came and Tuesdays went, but no ideas could be generated. The boss roared and ranted , picked up the marker , went to the whiteboard , paced about , but ... no ideas ! 

Exasperated, the boss complained to me  "I want to listen to them  , I want suggestions, but it seems that their lips are sealed !"  

I asked him softly " Have you established a receptive climate for them to give ideas ? You know, just like you cannot force anybody to love you or respect you, you cannot force ideas from your team. The atmosphere has to be conducive... "

"But whenever I give any idea, all of them nod their heads in agreement, I know they have good ideas, but when I ask them to tell me, they just say that they want to go along with whatever I said !"

I did some talking around and then I again went to the boss and said "Are you sure that in the past they have not given you their ideas or suggestions ?  Think deeply. Did you reject them outright with sarcasm ? That is why they do not speak out. They feel what is the use - Our boss cannot take disagreements . Our suggestions will anyways will not make any difference ...!

Read my Post : I don't Agree

Situation 2 

Veeru always kept her office door open.  She was proud that by doing so, she encouraged her staff to come and see her anytime with their problems , complains, issues and suggestions.  

But hardly anyone came.  They were allowed, but then why didn't they come ? Maybe they did not have any problems or issues. But they worked hard and Veeru was sure that they had good suggestions which would help the organization. She was also under pressure from the Corporate office to get innovative ideas . 

One day , one of her managers resigned and she was a part of the exit interview . 

"You have been in the organization for quite a long time. Tell me one thing. I always keep my door open and this is an encouragement from me that anyone can come and talk to me about problems or suggestions. But somehow , no one comes. Can you tell me why ?"

"To tell you frankly, people know that the doors are physically open but psychologically closed.  Whenever someone comes , there is a look of annoyance on your face. It seems either you are too busy or people are not welcome to open up in front of you ... "

Veeru pondered over the discussion. She consulted her friends . Then she started keeping her door partially open. She set aside certain time of her day when she closed her laptop and smiled at people who came near the door. She started looking at their eyes during conversations and tried to be genuinely interested in what they had to say. 

Things improved dramatically. 

Situation 3 :

Anne believed in Management by walking around. (Read my post : Recipe for Successful Leadership : MBWA) She always walked about in the factory floor where the toothpaste was manufactured and packaged.  She asked the staff how things were . She also reviewed the process changes, machine maintenance status , problems reported earlier and she asked them about these and elicited comments about the progress and the problems being faced by the changes. She usually got innovative ideas and suggestions while walking around.  The people also knew that she wanted to hear them and if the ideas were good, they were appreciated and implemented. 

For example,  for the last few months there were customer complaints that there were many packets which were empty, i.e, the toothpaste was not put into the packet but were shipped to the suppliers. Lots of brainstorming was done.  Consultants were deployed who spent a lot of effort and money and gave a complex solution, involving major costs and augmentation of manpower. One day, while walking around, she saw a worker who was in the packaging area, he had put a forceful pedestal fan where the packets were being finally being packed after putting the toothpaste tube into it. Anne went and asked him why the fan was needed. 

"Well.  I have directed the fan towards the packets. If any packet is empty, it will be blown away and I will be able to detect that it does not have a toothpaste tube inside it !

Marvelous, isn't it ?

There are several other situations , but maybe I will talk about them in one of my next posts. 

In the meantime ,think about  how you will reject ideas without hurting the employee and without causing resentment.

Also, think, why the usual suggestion boxes kept in almost all the offices never get any thing in them! And put your thoughts in the comments below !

Till then , Ciao !!


  1. Interesting article. You make some valid points. It also helps if contributors are able to present their ideas in terms the boss/sponsor understands failing which a demo helps even more. Also, when there are reticent types around, it helps to use methods/techniques that allow them to express their ideas better. Should I elaborate?

    1. Fernandes, thanks for your comments. Yes, do elaborate

  2. Financial terms: cost savings/additional revenue.
    Pre-prepared agendas mailed out before and ideas collated earlier. Ideators not identified. In brief, examples.

  3. I'll leave you with one caveat though: All these financial/ management techniques/methods are all very fine while making decisions at work but its no way to lead a life.