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3 Reasons Great Ideas Get Lost and How to Fix it

Posted on March 31, 2017

How often have you heard this scenario?

"Maybe I should look for a new job. There's no reason to stay. No one listens to my ideas, and even if they do nothing happens with them. "

Any employer hearing this from employees should be concerned on multiple levels related to talent retention, competitive marketplace position and the health of the company culture. Of course, there are many reasons why organizations fail at promoting employee ideas from inception to implementation, but we’re going to focus on the three big ones here, culture, process and communications.

Culture. Does your corporate culture suck?

There are a variety of reasons for a poor innovation culture and sometimes it’s not the entire organization that’s broken. Sometimes it’s just certain units and, when this is the case, there's often a manager killing off the innovative initiatives and spirit of their colleagues.

Whether the entire organization has developed a bad innovation culture, or just parts of it, the answers for this have to come from the senior leadership. It needs to be supported by analytics and remediation efforts if either data or anecdotal evidence surfaces to suggest some managers are squashing their employee’s efforts to create better solutions, products or services.

Remediation needs to be more personalized and specific than just addressing all managers as a group and saying they need to support innovation. Senior operations, HR, technology and communications leaders need to partner to provide employees with the technology and tools to make the innovation process manageable and documented. A thoughtful incentive program that matches the culture of your organization can help in creating a more positive culture as well.

One of the biggest things that has to happen is leaders who are less successful in promoting their employees innovations may need to be tactfully counseled on both the need and value of supporting their employees’ creativity and collaboration. Managers trying to coast to retirement without rocking the boat and managers who see junior level employee’s ideas as a threat to their own hegemony need to be counseled. In the worst case scenario, they may need to be replaced if they cannot be trained to understand if they foster a climate in which their employees can do great work, that, in itself, is the best reflection of their management talent.

Process. If good ideas are solicited, only to die on the vine, you may lack good process.

A company with a terrific outlook on innovation (that truly cares about it’s employees’ contributions) is still not guaranteed success without putting in a great process for documenting, tracking, evaluating and implementing its employees’ ideas for process improvement, product development and service excellence.

There is an example of a company in the Northeast US that cares so much about employee feedback  they host, at great expense, an annual retreat for employees to break into groups, identify key corporate challenges and brainstorm ideas for those challenges.  While these conferences were highly valued by employees, in the weeks following, as people returned to the office and began to deal with the pressing issues of the day, rumblings began to surface that all the innovative ideas they had just brainstormed were getting lost in the day-to-day demands of customers and existing maintenance and were, in many cases, going nowhere. So, what began as an uplifting initiative for employees began, over time, to be viewed with cynicism as a big waste of time. Even as the company had a great culture in favor of employee innovation and feedback, they were sorely lacking in process.

Companies with great process have systems in place to be sure ideas are put on a track with assigned deliverables, milestones and accountability. In today’s complex world, the best way to deliver process is through technology. The right technology can provide all of the documentation, assignments and tracking while also delivering analytics the senior leadership can use to monitor progress, provide any needed interventions and help the organization measure and celebrate success.

Communications. What’s that you’re saying?

Which brings us to the 3rd leg of the innovation stool, communications. Great communications, on both a macro and micro level, are needed to make any employee idea and innovation program successful.

Effective macro communications are needed to create a buzz and adoption around your employee feedback initiative, provide effective roll-out communications, updates on changes and to celebrate and reward success.

The platform you use for process must have effective micro-communications in the form of status messages, prompts and reminders.  Each step in an idea’s life-cycle needs to have appropriate notifications to the parties impacted. Proper use of technology will remove the burden on program administrators by automating most of the update and notification process.

  • Has an idea been put into collaboration mode, but never submitted for evaluation?  A timely platform reminder can get it moving again.
  • Has an idea been parked for a period of time?  A timely reminder can get it back on track.
  • Has an evaluator taken too long to review and decide on a an idea’s future? Again, a good idea program will have automated messaging to prompt stakeholders when there is a needed action on their part.

So, while there are many elements of a successful employee feedback initiative, culture, process and communications are the big three. Unfortunately, you can’t buy or build technology to solve the culture issue. This has to come from your leadership by setting the right tone and being champions for innovation within the organization. While this definitely includes a willingness to invest in the right technologies, it also includes a commitment to providing proper guidance, support and direction to middle managers to be sure they are maximizing the contributions of their team members.

To learn more about how a thoughtful technology partner can help ensure your employee’s ideas get heard, evaluated and  implemented, please reach out to the Vocoli team at 888-919-5300 or email us at

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