The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas
Alan G. Robinson, Dean M. Schroeder
Too many organizations are overlooking, or even suppressing, their single most powerful source of growth and innovation. And it’s right under their noses. The frontline employees who interact directly with your customers, make your products, and provide your services have unparalleled insights into where problems exist and what improvements and new offerings would have the most impact.
In this follow-up to their bestseller Ideas Are Free, Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder show how to align every part of an organization around generating and implementing employee ideas and offer dozens of examples of what a tremendous competitive advantage this can offer. Their advice will enable leaders to build organizations capable of implementing 20, 50, or even 100 ideas per employee per year.
Citing organizations from around the world, they explain what’s needed to put together a management team that can lead the type of organization that embraces grassroots ideas and describe the strategies, policies, and practices that enable them. They detail exactly how high-performing idea processes work and how to design one for your organization.
There’s constant pressure today to do more with less. But cutting wages and benefits and pushing people to work harder with fewer resources can go only so far. Ironically, the best solution resides with the very people who have been bearing the brunt of these measures. With Robinson and Schroeder’s advice, you can unleash a constant stream of great ideas that will strengthen every facet of your organization.
work on ideas, they often worry about where this time is going to come from. One tactic that is particularly helpful in this regard is to start out by asking employees to focus on time-saving ideas or ideas on non-value-adding tasks that their teams could stop doing. Almost every time we have seen this tactic used, the resulting ideas have quickly freed up more time per week than the teams needed to work on ideas. A typical example of this phenomenon occurred a few years ago at a call center of a
fact, in our experience, rather than worrying about running out of ideas, after this exercise many managers become more concerned about being overwhelmed by them. We recommend keeping track of some of the more useful perspectives that come out of idea mining in your meetings. Over time, you can build up a very useful list of broadly applicable questions that can be shared across your organization and used in problem-finding training and in training for new employees. Consider these examples:
wall in the dispatching area so drivers could study it and visualize where their construction sites were. Individual short-pays alerted Graniterock to the fact that customers often had unique unstated needs that they simply assumed the company would meet. For example, some customers would state a delivery time but expect the truck to actually arrive fifteen minutes before the concrete was to be poured. Others would expect certain quality and performance additives in every load. These were an
considerable variety in the approaches being used, and some of the systems were becoming quite sophisticated. Today, there are quite a few organizations with mature high-performing idea systems, and they are capable of innovating at extraordinary rates. And we observe a rising interest in high-performing idea systems in government, health care, and education, sectors that are coming under great pressure to do more with less. The adoption of high-performance idea systems by organizations over
accountability of, 39, 43–45, 46 aggregate knowledge of, 16 as barrier to front-line ideas, 17–18, 24–29, 36, 90 changing mindsets and behaviors of, 33–45 command-and-control approach of, 16 engagement with front line workers, 39–43, 46, 172 in Executive Leadership Team of Health New England, 113–115 at Hickory Chair, 12–14 hiring and promotion of, 23, 30–33, 38, 39, 46 humility of, 30–32, 46 pay and perk benefits of, compared to workers, 24–26 in pilot test of new idea system, 124–125