Death to the Suggestion-Box: Why Digital is the Way to Go

The suggestion box of yore is exactly that, a box. A box where ideas go and are never seen or heard from again. Who reads them? When do they read them? What do they do with them after they’ve read them? And why is idea selection only suitable for managers?

What is Digital Culture?

Whether we want to face it or not, we live in a digital culture. As The Digital Culturist explains it, digital culture represents; “the idea that technology and the Internet significantly shape the way we interact, behave, think, and communicate as human beings in a social setting.” Putting this into a business context means the technology at our disposal effects how employees in an organization communicate with each other.

Traditional business structures don’t work as they used to, mainly due to the digital culture we all live in. And this is no truer than in a business context. According to McKinsey & Company, the combination of conventional business structures and digital culture are responsible for the three biggest cultural problems organizations face today.

According to their survey, Mckinsey & Company found three distinct cultural organizational problems, that stands in the way of businesses digital success. Luckily these three problems can be solved using digital tools and solutions.

These three challenges are nondigital overall culture, soloed mind-sets and behavior, and aversion to risk.

Calculated Risk

Common to talk about risk in a broad sense, with argues that not punishing failure is the best way to create innovation. President of Pixar, Ed Catmull describes this balancing act such:

“One of the things about failure is that it’s asymmetrical with respect to time. When you look back and see failure, you say, It made me what I am. But looking forward, you think, I don’t know what is going to happen and I don’t want to fail. The difficulty is that when you’re running an experiment, it’s forward looking. We have to try extra hard to make it safe to fail.”

So the answer is not so much to reward success and not punish failure. It’s to view both a learning experience. What you want as a manager is an environment where people feel comfortable and empowered to take risks.

But how does a digital suggestion box play a part? Well a great way to create this type of environment is to empower the front-line employees and let them take part in the decision-making. Having a digital suggestion box, where they can see their suggestions being read, discussed and implemented will go a long way to create that. Another great benefit to empowering front-line employees to take risks is the rapid innovation it enables:

“frontline risk taking enables more rapid innovation by speeding up iterations and decision making to support nimbler, test-and-learn approaches.”

A digital suggestion box is the grease that keeps your organization running smoothly. Speaking of which…

Busting Silos

Traditional business structures such as top-down processes, centralized decision-making, and organizational silos will not work in the digital culture we live in. In this day and age, companies need to increase their internal communication and transparency.

If an organization truly want to innovate and generate success, their organizational silos are probably whats standing in their way. Not only does organizational silos separate employees into arbitrary groups, it also hampers cross-department communication and decreases individuals sense of accountability. Busting silos is a two-part job, which can be done using an idea management platform. A digital suggestion box can be customised in any way you which, meaning groups can be made across departments, offices, and countries. An idea management platform also allows for a large amount of transparency.

When every idea has to go through a tiring vetting process, and get the rubber stamp from several managers in different departments, not only do great ideas get lost, you also take agency away from your employees. Through an idea management platform, you allow employees to take initiative. Turning to every member of the organization and making their input important, puts the responsibility on the employees. This sense of autonomy increases productivity, as well as giving people a say in their work.

Changing the Culture

This aspect of cultural challenges is a bit more difficult to define and therefore change. But according to Mckinsey & Company, removing silos and embracing risk are two great ways to start. A third area they argue has a big impact on creating a healthy digital culture is top-down support. According to Mckinsey & Company:

“All leaders need to shift their style from top-down decision-maker to coach.”

Embracing of digital solutions has to be made organically and be visible in every layer of the organization. Moreover, the strict business hierarchy of yesteryear has to be dumped in favor of a system that support independence, responsibility and a digital agenda.

Interested in suggestion boxes and ideas? Then check out “Your Idea Is Great, It Just Needs A Little More Work”

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