Good Inspiration Comes From Good Information
Have you ever had an idea that could improve a process inside your business that just died on the vine? Chances are you have. The truly sad thing is, lots of people have multiple great ideas to make their own job easier, improve productivity, or just generally make things better every day. These ideas typically die in two ways:
- Very slowly after being brutalized and reinterpreted by meetings and committees, until eventually something else shiny comes along and the implementation team moves on.
- Very quickly before it ever makes it into an email to one’s boss when one realizes they can’t prove their idea is good or feel it’s not good enough to be considered.
On an Idea’s Slow Death
When an idea dies slowly, it’s really the worst case scenario for the business. First, there is the tragic waste of inspiration in the first place; the opportunity cost of the loss of the good that idea could have done for your bottom line, employee satisfaction, etc. Second, add up all the hours of all the people sitting in conference rooms (or on conference calls) and multiply that by what you pay them. Finally, let’s not forget the originators/originators of the idea. The failure to implement their contribution erodes their trust that the company can finish projects and values employee ideas just a hair… which can add up over time.
On an Idea’s Quick Death
When an idea dies a quick death, you might not even notice in the leadership of the organization. This signals that employee trust has already dipped to a level that they don’t feel any contribution that can’t be implemented alone will be valued. This could be a middle management issue as well, as their daily interaction with teams can be more impactful even than senior leadership. If the originator does actually speak up, these ideas can be snuffed out with two deadly sentences: “Why should we do it your way?” and “We’ve always done it this way.”
So, if good inspiration comes from good information, what can a business leader do to make sure they don’t miss opportunities? Where can you get good information without being overwhelmed by possibilities?
This does not mean a suggestion box with little slips of paper you tear off that never gets opened. This also doesn’t mean the email address ’firstname.lastname@example.org’ that’s never promoted and also never seriously examined. You need to choose a platform that has accountability for the senior leadership, meaning you can indicate that an idea was considered and actually accepted or rejected for specific reasons (after all, not all employee ideas are good!). You also need to be able to commit to a timeline and have one person who is visibly responsible for implementation of the idea. You might also want to consider the option to submit anonymously. There are also companies that do focus groups with employees for additional insight.
That said, a digital listening platform can only go so far. Many senior leaders don’t have a good idea of what it’s like to actually work for their own company. This isn’t an easy one to overcome, since many employees may not want to seem to be criticizing the business to the “head honcho.” Trust is a big factor to getting to know the experiences of everyday workers. That said, leadership should proactively ask employees what they would do to improve the processes they interact with every day. If you’re touring offices and facilities make sure to make time for employees of various levels inside your organization, rather than on site managers alone. Different perspectives will yield different information.
Read, Read, Read
You’ve probably heard this one already, there are about a dozen different services that help you consume business literature quickly. I’m more of a fan of deep reading anyway, but that said books are not the only source of knowledge these days. I would suggest curating your LinkedIn newsfeed with influencers from multiple industries, not just your own! You never know what you might learn from an adjacent business model. Particularly, make sure you aren’t leaving out opinion leaders in the analytics, marketing, business technology and HR disciplines. Finally, hop over to YouTube and consume some video content. Your consumers likely are, so you should get familiar with ideas presented across media platforms to stay on the cutting edge.
This might seem obvious, but you can’t get good information without good data. A great dashboard (or collection of dashboards) can serve you in two ways. First, you might see areas for improvement just by looking at the data available. Checking the contribution margin of different areas of business to find high costs that can be streamlined is an obvious one. High turnover might indicate some leadership, benefits or employee engagement changes need to be made. Time to market stats could indicate some processes that can be cut down or scrapped altogether. You should be able to use your data across departments to take action and improve results.
The second way is that employees can also use the information available to substantiate their own contributions. A focused look from a different perspective might yield ideas that aren’t apparent at the 30,000 foot view. Access at different levels doesn’t have to be difficult to coordinate either, in fact it can enhance the interactivity of the data by limiting the scope to the essentials. Contact us to learn more about how to implement customized data visualizations across departments.