We have never subscribed to the idea that we should do something because it has always been done that way. For this reason I was really captivated by an article on Time.com 'Internal Crowdfunding Mimics Kickstarter Within Companies' that provides an overview of IBM's strategy to crowdfund ideas - but within the enterprise. The idea is simple: "Workers are given up to $2,000 of IBM money that they can use to fund the projects they believe have the most potential. Project creators, who come from all levels of the business, can promote their ideas on the organization’s internal social network." How powerful is the notion that everyone can raise an idea, make change happen and be recognized and rewarded? The speed of change continues unabated and business must adopt new approaches to stay ahead and I see this trend growing. The most forward thinking and open businesses will thrive whilst those that rely on a top-down approach, where only the select few have influence to make decisions, will be left behind.
Why you should do it
In 2011 Gartner moved Idea Management into “The Slope of Enlightenment’ on their Hype Cycle and this was a good indication that it was entering the main-stream. In 2012 Microsoft purchased Yammer and has been integrating it into its product line, including Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 (check out our latest Yammer integration for the RFU here). Yammer provides us with a way to encourage employee led ideation more easily than ever before.
Benefits that you can expect from a simple idea management solution include:
- Giving all employees, from any level of the organization, a voice to be heard
- Providing the ability to capture innovation in real-time, from anywhere and on any device
- Making use of the knowledge trapped inside your workforce
- Uncovering new ideas that can keep your customers happy, save time and money
- Yammer is a way to keep your pulse on the workforce. Sharing in an open format benefits everyone
How to get started
Technology is only a facilitator of the easy exchange of ideas and knowledge and helping to build bridges that connect people. The critical success factor starts with fostering a company culture that encourages innovation and, as IBM illustrated, rewards can also help. Rewards can be as simple as providing recognition of a great idea (e.g the Yammer praise feature), providing prizes for idea of the month or providing the funding to implement the best ideas. However it is important to remember that executive buy-in is key to fostering an environment of open sharing. People will only follow when the leadership has bought into the concept, and is pro-actively participating and supporting its growth.
Once the right company culture is in place a simple way to start is by creating a Yammer Group dedicated to ideation or the specific area of improvement where you want your people to focus. Other approaches include using dedicated Yammer topic tags (think hash tags: #idea or #newproductidea) that employees can follow. This allows them to be notified, through alerts and email about topics that interest them, and thus can contribute more readily. Finally, and at additional cost, there are also dedicated solutions around ideation management, available from the Yammer App Directory to provide more advanced functionality.
A few simple examples of how you can implement basic idea management using Yammer include:
- Sharing ideas and soliciting feedback with minimal effort
- Using a crowdsourcing approach to develop the best ideas (and drop others quickly)
- Sharing industry trends, analyze competitive intelligence and collaborate to adapt your products and services
- Quickly and easily form collaborative groups for employees inside and trusted influencers outside your organization (using Yammer Groups and External Networks)
However large or small, collectively all of these improvements can propel an organization forward, empower employees, and allow organizations to benefit from real development that can ultimately save time, money, improve the customer experience and enrich the working lives of employees. Something as simple as an engaged executive leader asking a question such as “What is one thing the company could do better?” Could deliver really game changing responses.
Innovation is everyone’s job and you never know where the next great idea may come from. Yammer provides a simple and effective solution to get started with employee led ideation, so why don't you raise this approach as an #idea in your organization today?