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 is an example of a billion-dollar idea that started with an employee typing a few 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 are proactive about encouraging their employees to share ideas. 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 - aren't always the best way to brainstorm ideas, as they 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 and lead to stronger team collaboration. Others may prefer regular, short sessions to give team members 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 design them based on the areas you’d like to improve. Some of our favourite ideas include;
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 team members 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 can do wonders for team collaboration and cross-functional idea sharing.
A software engineer might have a great idea that your marketing coordinator can use, or vice versa. Ideas shared are more likely to be relevant when they’re tied to wider company goals. When you emphasise the goals of your company during idea sessions, you may discover that the ideas include more relevant initiatives.
5. Use Frankli’s Share Idea Tool
Located within Feedback, Frankli's Share Idea tool 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 team members 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
Sharing ideas 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 so many tech startups and scaleups use Frankli’s Share Ideas tool 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 for brainstorming ideas 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 team members 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. Sharing ideas 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.