Pipelining Innovation: What Is Idea Qualification & Why Startups Need It

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Hands Writing Drawing on Idea Paper Working

How To Use Employee Feedback To Grow Innovation From Within

In 2017, Mark Murphy, NYT bestselling author, led a study with Leadership IQ that surveyed over 27,000 executives, managers, and employees on the risks of ignoring employee feedback.

They found:

  • 24% of people say that their leader always encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement.

  • 23% of people say that when they share their work problems with their leader, he/she always responds constructively.

  • Only 6% of people say that at their organization, good suggestions or valid complaints from employees always lead to important changes.

While most look to the diversity conversation as a channel for encouraging minority representation, diversity of thought leadership is necessary across any organization to ensure every employee feels empowered to drive the business’s vision, goals, and success.

We live in a space where we not only want to be heard, but we also want our ideas to stand a fighting chance to be brought to life. Unfortunately, despite how great an idea may be: the product fit, resources required, or alignment with a company’s current growth strategy, may not be ideal at the point in time the idea was seeded. These factors tend to disqualify an idea for the business model at hand and the employee suggesting it feels neglected that their contributions are not acknowledged.

So, how do we fix that?

At Thought Bakery, we encourage building honest, open workplace environments where businesses can use a transparent, open process of communication called Idea Qualification (IQ).

What is Idea Qualification?

Too often, great ideas suggested by employees are disregarded by reporting managers due to their personal biases or they just don’t understand the impact well enough to support its execution. Not only does this demotivate the employee who referred the idea, but also deprives the company of a potential growth opportunity. Idea Qualification prevents this by favoring a transparent process led by a carefully selected community of peers across varied teams in an organization. They act similarly to a Project Management Office (PMO) for managing and funneling potent ideas to the product, service or customer experience, as well as a communication hub for ones that need a little more development.

How Does IQ Work?

New employee suggestions are presented to an independent group of peers within the company as “blind submittals.” This ensures reviews are unbiased and the full potential of an idea is recognized when being evaluated against its potential impact on the organization’s value chain. If the idea aligns with the organization’s current growth strategy and customer experience fit, it qualifies for testing and the originator is notified to help aid in the execution process.

If the idea does not qualify due to its non-alignment with pre-set qualifications, the originator is notified and given details regarding the challenges faced. It’s vital for the employee to understand why the idea was denied, that the review was anonymous, and that they are still encouraged to continue submitting new suggestions because their ideas are appreciated and extremely valued.

Putting Idea Qualification Into Practice

Use Case: Jane Smith wants to start an awareness program that focuses on easy ways to meditate. The appropriate steps to take are as follows:

STEP 1: Jane submits her idea through an anonymous form using Google Forms. A designated intermediary collects all form submittals for the peer committee to review to maintain confidentiality.

 STEP 2: The committee meets to review all submissions and evaluates which align most closely with the company’s:

  • Strategic Goals

  • Product Roadmap

  • Culture and Ethics

  • Customer Experience

  • Resource Management

STEP 3: There are three possible outcomes – the submittal is approved, put on-hold, or challenged.

Approved: The committee agrees the idea is qualified against the pre-set criteria for evaluation and will be contributive to the customer and/or employee experience of the company.

On-Hold: The committee agrees the initiative is productive and aligns with the company’s culture but requires further development (i.e. deciding if a certified instructor should be hired to lead sessions).

Challenged: Though the proposition is valued and worthy of exploration, current conditions do not allow its execution at this time. However, alternative solutions are sought to make the suggestion come alive but with the usage of different resources. For example, the space available at the workplace is too limited for mediation sessions to take place, but HR decides to provide discounts to meditation centers nearby and flexible hours to take advantage of class times.

What Does IQ Achieve?

  • Employees feel heard, empowered, and challenged to continue seeding new and innovative ideas for change.

  • Management has access to an organic and constant stream of growth opportunities for both marketing and culture across the company.

  • Transparency, accountability, diversity and inclusion, and an action-based culture become inherent to the company’s way of paving their path forward.

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Chae Obrien