Every Business Needs an Ideas Bank
The business world is guilty of not challenging the norm enough; often complacent, satisfied to follow tradition rather than make waves.
It takes courage, vision and insight to question a leaders’ appetite for innovation. During a crisis, there’s scope to question our leader's decisions.
Why do they continue to do things in the same ways that they did before?
Likewise, it takes a courageous and visionary leader to question themselves, to evaluate their risk-aversion or appetite for innovation.
At times of crises, a leaders motivation, default-mode is laid bare for all to see. Great leaders actively seek the input of others, poor leaders dish out autocratic and baseless smoke-screens.
The best business leaders today recognise and embrace a more transparent environment, a culture that encourages challenging questions from all stakeholders. An ethos that underpins a healthy business climate that encourages innovation and improves crisis-management.
The modern world can ill afford to ignore turbulent times.
This article will discuss one a way that leaders can invite continuous ideation to feed innovation at grass-root levels.
Ideas Give Birth to Innovation
One human flaw is that we tend to judge and discard ideas too soon. We judge ideas before they’re tested, unproven or proven, especially if they contradict with our vision.
Some leaders and managers judge ideas harshly simply because they didn't conceive them. Innovative ideas that make it to market, manifest not because of merit, rather due to the fact they garnered the approval of the leaders or manager who held the power to choose them. As a result, they did not undergo a rigid evaluation, the right type of critique undertaken by a diverse stakeholder-group.
Ideas fail or lack longevity due to insufficient criticism by the right people, followed by premature exposure to the masses of uninvolved users.
Innovation is born out of ideas, so must be nurtured just like an infant.
There is a solution.
The Business Ideas Bank
Research coupled with a robust communication structure, involving all stakeholders — like employees, business and supply chain partners — is the foundation for an effective innovation process.
The absence of an innovation process, or if left unattended, can impede an organisations ability to compete in a rapidly changing world.
One communication model that empowers employees and business partners to participate in an organisations evolution is a ‘Business Ideas Bank’ (BIB). A forum that facilitates ideation and communication; to record, manage and maintain innovation progress to ensure that every idea is considered.
The mechanics of an idea bank is simple, a three-phase process to progress ideas with potential through the innovation funnel.
- Gather (A) — Capture and record every idea at the point of conception.
- Review (B) — Evaluate collectively using a peer-to-peer forum, whereby a minimum of 3 stakeholders to approve ideas for further progression.
- Nurture (C) — Those that qualify and within budget can make it to the final stage, implementation or prototype development.
The BIB is effectively a marketplace of competing ideas, seeking to obtain resource investment based on merit, debated and promoted by consensus.
What should an innovation-marketplace look like?
Firstly it's important to understand why this is important. The most innovative companies today have incredible income or revenue per employee ratio. A metric that indicates the innovativeness of an organisation.
In the article Trillion Dollar Club: How Much Profit Per Employee, Laurie O’Sullivan wrote:
HowMuch.net did a bit of number crunching and found that Apple — one of the first companies worldwide to reach a $1 trillion market cap — leads in terms of profits, making $435,000 per employee. The company has about 104,000 workers, according to the respective breakdown by HowMuch.net of the four that reached $1 trillion in market capitalization.
Google comes in at №2 with $269,000 per employee on $30.7 billion in profit and 114,000 employees.
Amazon’s market cap sits at $925 billion, with profits of $10.1 billion. Amazon’s profit per employee sits at about $15,557 due to its large, international workforce, according to HowMuch.net, which also claims it has the most expensive stock price of the four companies at $1,864.72 per share as of January 21, 2020.
Great companies are aware that innovation has a direct impact on revenue per employee ratio. Therefore, an effective innovation-marketplace in any organisation is the bedrock for transformational innovation, creating a new tomorrow is easier to achieve with a healthy cash pool.
Furthermore, there are three crucial elements that underpin a business ideas bank, a marketplace where innovators can demonstrate their wears.
These three elements are grounded in people.
№1 — The more brain, the lower the drain
Few front line employees are encouraged to contribute towards innovation and in turn profitability. In most cases, their only contribution is a wage reduction or unpaid overtime. This is a mistake, a narrow-minded approach that ignores the very workers closest to the consumer.
Think about it. What might happen if every employee could invest a proportion of their time to help their organisation to reinvent the future?
In an instant, an organization exponentially expands its collective brain-power. Encouraging all employees to think, as opposed to sacrificing, paving the way for innovation-led profitability.
Embrace a bottom-up approach as opposed to the top-down fallacy.
№2 — You get back what you put in
An open-source ideas bank inspires a community of people to operate at a higher level of thought. For such organisations, the message is clear, the more you do to make this happen, the more you’re likely to get in return.
One byproduct is that employees expand their expertise, while the organization gains a reputation for innovation, attracting more talent. It can level the playing field too, promoting those workers who demonstrate their commitment to the cause.
Take Wikipedia for example, a volunteer encyclopaedia of information that’s now more popular than Webster and Brittanica. This organization opened up public participation, employing the entire planet, 7.8 billion people to share information and ideas.
Crowd-sourcing is a powerful brain-aggregator. So involve everyone across an organisation or community to join the journey of innovation.
№3 — Grow from ordinary to extraordinary
The brain is a muscle. As such it responds to exercise and regular training just like a muscle. When you lift weights, your muscles grow, with the right nutrition of course. The same rule applies to the brain. When you exercise it, your ability to think grows.
This applies to every one of us. It’s a law of nature, transforming the ordinary genius into an extraordinary genius. Like anything in life, if you put in the effort you can improve, so your thinking ability is no different.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
— Tim Notke
On a practical level, innate intelligence is less important, much like talent versus hard work. What truly matters is how well someone learns to think, masters their thinking agility.
Innovation takes work, so be prepared to roll up your sleeves.
If people cannot record, test or apply an idea immediately, at the moment of inspiration, they tend to forget about it — beautiful thoughts are lost.
If you don't explore your ideas, they risk becoming extinct. If you do not share your thoughts, momentary insights disappear. If you do not nurture your ideas, no one gains.
All humans have a duty to contribute to the ideas bank of humanity.
We all have a unique life experience. Yours differs from mine and from others around the world. As such we behold an incredible gift, the ability to connect the dots from our diverse experiences, merging the impossible to cultivate the impossible. This is the basis of invention, the foundation for innovation.
A marketplace for ideas inspires people to engage, to invest in the practical and emotional journey that breaths life into an idea.
To recap, allow me to remind you of the BIB process flow, a model that applies in work and in life:
- Gather (A) — Capture and record every idea at the moment of inspiration.
- Review (B) — Evaluate with others to probe and critique all ideas.
- Nurture (C)— Qualified ideas are worthy of further investment.
In the right environment, people will invent, create and innovate with a passion and purpose. It’s an intrinsic human trait to do so.
So don't deny the world of your beautiful thoughts — Learn to gather, review and nurture your everyday ideas!