The worst thing you can do, when someone gives you an innovative idea is right in the middle of this ‘zero’
Can you see it? Yep, you’re right: “nothing”. The worst thing, you can do when someone approaches you with an idea is do nothing. If you want to discourage your staff from giving new ideas then take the ideas, and never get back to them.
You could mumble something like “... we’ll get back to you soon ... “ And just don’t. It’s almost worse than being disparaging. You see everyone likes to be heard, and everyone likes their ideas to be validated. If you want to encourage more ideas, keep the originator in the loop, and give them good reasons for the success, and even the failure of their ideas. Even when it is not good news - you are at least showing the respect that tells the originator of the idea, that you value their thinking.
Have a Transparent Vetting Proces
When I work with clients to develop their innovation strategy two of the key outcomes are an "ideation" process and a vetting process. Ideation is about how you develop ideas (see our Innovation Diamond ©) and vetting about how to assess them.
When vetting, I don't recommend a particular process as it's best if it's endogenous - but I always recommend that everybody knows what each step of the process is and that you get back to the idea originator quickly.
A vetting process usually includes a number of stage-gates with time-frames. So, for example, 2 weeks for first vetting, 2 weeks for assessment of viability, 3 months for market/technical assessment etc. these will vary from organisation to organisation.
What should an vary is the transparency - everyone - especially the originator of the idea - should know what stage idea is at, who is involved and particularly when they’ll hear back. Nothing, is worse, than doing nothing
What if the news is bad?
If the idea is not a "go" then you must explain why, point out what was useful about it and ask for more ideas. Yes, that’s right, say something like, “This idea didn’t work on this occasion because of XYZ. What else have you got?” Comments like this will shape future thinking and you can all is put the idea in your idea bank for later re-use.
By being positive about the effort that went into the idea - not the outcome of the idea (good ideas can fail, for a whole host of reasons – but they’re still good ideas) - you will encourage more effort into creative thinking, and hence more innovation.
Contact me directly if you'd like to know more, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0438545 607