In my previous post, I wrote a little bit about engaging employees, bringing them together to contribute some ideas to improve the company. Yes, it may seem too simple but that post presented all the very practical and applicable steps.
I have seen several companies, invested in their staffs by sending them to a 4-7 day design thinking workshop and one month down the road, still without ideas or worst still, not even started or too busy with their usual routines to get started.
Design thinking is a good process and it has yielded results for many companies like IDEO. The problem is the lack of application or lack of the motivation for application. As such, a good tool like design thinking will be just another white elephant.
Ideally, the specific staff sent for design thinking course should start setting up the overall corporate environment of the company and gear it towards innovation and facilitating idea generation. And with strong support from senior managers, design thinking can be rolled out more effectively. You will get better participation from staffs across all levels and eventually lead to a better result.
As yes, some of you may feel that it sounded too easy. Well, it is a little bit like weight loss program. The theory behind it is easy but the effort of acting on it on a consistent basis is another level altogether.
To me, it might be a good idea for companies, that is new to idea generation, to get started with a simple tool first. Once they developed the right environment, the right mindset and spirit for innovation and idea generation, then design thinking might be an excellent ‘upgrade’.
I love design thinking and I certainly recommend it to organizations that have the environment, the mindset and drive for it to be applied and flourish. In other words, your organization needs to be fit and ready to learn and utilize design thinking.
What if you have an idea and want to bring it up to the attention of your management team?
This is an excellent question and my answer to this really depends on what you want to achieve.
Well, you can always call up your supervisor or manager to discuss it over coffee. Or you can trouble yourself to create a proposal and give it to your manager or management team, and secure an opportunity to make a presentation.
Here are some of the ways that I have used in the past ten years.
One of the ways that you can bring your idea to light is by discussing it with your superiors over coffee.
- A not-so-formal setting is a good idea to get some insights and experience from others.
- It is also an excellent way to build rapport.
- Possibly leads to plenty of exchange.
The downside of this is that the discussion could lose focus.
You superiors might be more interested in what’s going on within his scope of supervision which could be operations, sales or customer service. If the objective of this coffee talk is not made clear, your superiors could end up giving you a list of tasks to do or even squeeze some updates on the recent customer complaints from you.
If you do get to discuss your ideas with him, a good follow up FROM YOU is required. If the ball is in his court, rest assured, it may be lost among his own pile of work.
Bear in mind Stephen Covey’s Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For information on that, click here.
Sending a long email is something that I have done and did not yield almost any result. I said almost because it helped me to understand what goes on behind the doors of senior management of that company.
In 2008, I was posted to one of the biggest student hostel management projects in Singapore at that time. I wrote about this in one of my previous blogs where I had the idea of implementing a performance-based remuneration for non-sales staffs.
If you need to read that post, click here.
To make a long story short, I sent a long email to all my managers, senior managers and general managers included. That email was about implementing performance based remuneration, why I thought it was important and how it can be a win-win situation for every non-sales staff.
That project was already losing good staffs before I came on-board and I needed to propose something new that can really bring mutual benefits to staffs, company and managers like me. Attrition is an intangible cost that is really hard to deal with.
Though that email was filled with real life issues, backed with evidences, it was too long for my then managers to read immediately. Those days, the smartphones like Apple’s Iphone and Samsung’s Note was still a figment of our imagination.
There was no reply. Not a single soul replied my email except for this one particular quality assurance manager who was serving his one month notice period at that time. He said it was a good idea but he doubt the other senior managers will be open to that.
He gave me a couple of reasons why it would not be accepted. Nevertheless, he encouraged me to wait for the responses from the senior management team.
He was right…
Zero response from a senior management team of about 10.
- A Proposal
Most of the time, we give a proposal to our clients, in the hope of a new business opportunity. In that proposal, it includes our ideas on how we can add value to them. It is not as often we see a staff send an improvement proposal to the management, on how their ideas can add value to the organization.
I was heading the operations division of a company that was also facing high attrition rate. In business, it is important for business to continue growing while the problem was being remedied.
I had an idea on how that can be solved but an idea is just an idea. First, I had a discussion with the superior over coffee. In that discussion, I needed to get some information out of him over a couple things which included finance, his plans for the year, etc.
I need to know where the company stands before I attempt to make a move. So whatever information that the superior feels can be shared, he shared. I had to work with what was given.
So in view of the situation we were in and where we wanted to go, I drafted a plan on how to improve the entire business on powerpoint.
Once done, I saved a copy of that in pdf and emailed it over.
A few days later, he called me out for coffee to discuss that proposal.
He highlighted some points, I amended that proposal and we discussed over it again.
Was the idea implemented? Partly it was. I executed part of that idea before I left. Even if it is not executed, I am fine with that.
Why? Because that piece of idea can be built upon in the future.
Sounds like a lot of work? In fact, it is a lot of work and overcoming this ‘lot of work’ will determine how serious you really are.
Idea Not Accepted, What Have I Gained?
So you have done everything and it got rejected. All is not lost. There are many reasons for rejection. Apart from the proposal that you have control over, there are things like;
- Company may not have the resources.
- Company might already have other plans in the pipeline.
- Company is expecting a change in the company, economy or industry that you might not be aware of.
- And the list goes on and on.
Whatever the reason, you have gained something;
- You had the opportunity to develop a simple idea into something that might work.
- In the research process, you uncovered new findings that will be a seed of thought inside you.
- You spoke about your idea and you learned about your company’s actual direction and focus.
- You experienced the entire idea development process of your own design (even if you got it wrong)
Of course there’s more.
You will not gain anything by complaining and whining but by taking your idea further, you will definitely gain.
You see, everyone has ideas every now and then. Everyone will always have suggestions and opinions but not everyone will have the real interest of the matter to heart and even lesser people will push forward their ideas into one solid proposal, let alone its actual execution.
My ideas may not start with me. I get inspiration from my work experiences and experiments and I built on that. We all are a factory of ideas.
However, we need to bear in mind that ideas will only remain as ideas. Gary Vaynerchuk said “Ideas Are SH*T. Execution Is the Game”.
You have an idea. You need the company’s support to roll it out. Before they can support you, you need to ‘sell’ this idea to them. How you sell to them is up to you. You can try talking about it over coffee, send a lengthy email or better still, send a proposal backed with facts on why it can work.
If a presentation is needed, go ahead and do that presentation.
Once that sale is done, execution is next.
Quit complaining! Quit whining on improvement! Quit looking like a victim. Get your head together and get involved. Be an entrepreneur within your company. Make a difference. BE DIFFERENT!