For most leaders, encouraging idea sharing is a key part of their strategy, and with good reason. One simple idea has the potential to bring about huge growth - Amazon Prime provides a perfect example of a billion-dollar idea that started with an employee typing a couple of words into a digital suggestion box.
Research tells us that a culture of innovation simply can’t exist without idea sharing (1). And we also know that including diverse perspectives help employees feel valued and avoid burnout (2).
The benefits are there to be enjoyed, but only if leaders can effectively encourage idea sharing across their teams. Today, we’re breaking down a couple of our favourite strategies for doing just that.
5 Ways to Foster a Culture of Idea Sharing
1. Schedule regular idea sessions
You’ll notice that we didn’t use the word brainstorm here. That’s because traditional brainstorming sessions - held once a quarter, with a big group - don’t support everyone’s natural creative flow. For some teams, separate idea sessions with small groups, coordinated by a leader, produce the best results. Others may prefer regular, short sessions to give people time to “sleep on” the most interesting ideas. Find the rhythm and format that works for your teams.
2. Ask questions
Prepare a few strategic questions to ask directly in idea sessions, team meetings or 1:1 meetings. You can theme them based on the area of the business you’d like to improve. Some suggestions to help you get the ball rolling;
1. “What are our customers struggling with most right now?”
2. “What’s stopping us from achieving our sales target this month?”
3. “What’s one thing you’d change about working here?”
3. Create a culture of trust
If people suspect their ideas will be met with ridicule or pessimism, they’ll never feel comfortable offering up their best suggestions. Keep an open mind during idea sessions, and encourage your team to do the same. Acknowledge that risks and mistakes are part of the process, and don’t forget to show appreciation when ideas are shared. A simple “thanks for sharing that,” or “I really appreciate everyone’s contributions this morning,” can be so encouraging. You’ll find some solid advice for creating a culture of trust on our blog.
4. Share your company goals with the entire team
If everyone on your team is clear on the company’s goals, it leads to cross-functional idea sharing. A software engineer might have a great idea that your marketing coordinator can use, or vice versa. Even better, ideas shared are likely to be more relevant and more valuable when they’re tied to wider company goals.
5. Use Frankli’s Share Idea Feature
Located within Feedback, the Share Idea feature in Frankli provides a channel for people at all levels of the organisation to suggest ideas digitally, in as little as 30 seconds. As well as signaling to your people that you see value in their ideas, regardless of their role, this feature makes it easy for managers to make progress on shared ideas by documenting them, requesting feedback about them and referencing them in 1:1 meetings.
The Next Step: Finding Idea Sharing Tools
Idea sharing doesn’t stop with brainstorming sessions. Leaders and managers need a system for keeping track of and referencing shared ideas later, so they don’t get forgotten about. You also need a process for developing, legitimising and troubleshooting ideas before they roll out, and later, evaluating their effectiveness. And you need a way to reference shared ideas in individual performance appraisals. That’s why many tech startups and scaleups use idea sharing tools like Frankli’s Share Ideas feature to help them maximise the benefits of idea sharing.
- People at all levels of the organisation can share ideas with their manager digitally - it takes less than 30 seconds!
- People can tag their ideas with specific company values and expected outcomes
- Shared ideas are stored in feedback history, where sharers and managers can access them at any time
- Shared ideas are visible during 1:1 meetings so they can be discussed further and referenced in performance appraisals
- Managers can create tasks to remind themselves to review shared ideas at a later date, when it’s more appropriate to develop them
- Managers can use the Feedback feature to gain feedback on shared ideas at any stage of the process
1. Harvard Business Review, Gary P. Pisano, The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures. 2. Harvard Business Review, Patricia Satterstrom, Michaela J. Kerrissey, and Julia DiBenigno, How the Best Teams Keep Good Ideas Alive.
1. Schedule regular idea sessions. Find a format and a rhythm that works for your teams. Explore alternatives to traditional brainstorming sessions, as these don’t support everyone’s creative flow.
2. Ask questions. Prepare a few strategic questions to ask directly in idea sessions, team meetings or 1:1 meetings. For example, “What are our customers struggling with most right now?”
3. Create a culture of trust. If people suspect their ideas will be met with ridicule or pessimism, they’ll never feel comfortable sharing them. Keep an open mind and show appreciation for all ideas shared.
4. Share your company goals with the entire team. If everyone on your team is clear on the company’s goals, it leads to more cross-functional idea sharing. Ideas are likely to be relevant to the wider company goals, too.
5. Use Frankli’s Share Idea Feature. The Share Idea feature in Frankli provides a channel for people at all levels of the organisation to make suggestions.
The Next Step: Finding Idea Sharing Tools. Idea sharing doesn’t stop with brainstorming sessions. Leaders and managers need systems for keeping track of shared ideas, developing, legitimising and troubleshooting ideas before they roll out, evaluating their effectiveness, and referencing shared ideas in performance appraisals.
Frankli is the best-in-class tool for promoting a culture of idea sharing on high-performing teams. Find out more by speaking to a member of our team.