Paul Sloane in his article Why Do Suggestions Schemes Fail? talks about the pitfalls that make the suggestion schemes or idea competitions fail in most organizations. I have always loved the practical aspects of Paul’s articles. It reminded of a conversation I had with the Chief Innovation Officer of a mid sized IT company in Bangalore. When I was discussing managing ideas with him – he said – Oh we are very good at getting ideas – we are sitting on 7000 ideas. When I asked him how is he going to evaluate these ideas? Does he even have the resources to critically look at those ideas? Has he thought of the impact of not evaluating the ideas that people have painstakingly shared and they expect a reply on? I questioned him on how is he going to pick up ideas from this huge databank to implement.
To my surprise he gave me a very bookish answer – We respect all ideas and each idea is important to us. Hello, but can you do justice to all ideas? How can you assume all ideas are good?
It also reminds me of a story whose moral is – Answers you get is dependent on questions you ask. So in suggestion schemes and idea competitions also what you get is what you ask for. If you ask a solution to a pointed problem or at least solutions to areas bound by a well defined boundary – you are more likely to get solutions that you can use.
Another practical aspect is that I have seen that these competitions tend to become a goal for the team executing it. The evaluation of their performance is solely on the base of number of ideas generated and not on the number of ideas that eventually helped the business or organization. So the process matters as much as the focus on results.
Read the article to see some very practical issues with suggestion schemes.
I would take this opportunity to thank Paul Sloane for giving an advance review comment for my debut book The Mouse Charmers.