So very infrequently do suggestion boxes actually work.
In the office, I remember when the suggestion box was put out and the biggest suggestion put into the box was to bring paper towels back to the bathrooms after these had been replaced months before with hand dryers, so the toilets wouldn’t get clogged up!
Most of the time suggestions boxes like meetings don’t get the participation and input needed.
Today, in the New York Times, Phil Gilbert says that in the meeting room, “You’ve got the extrovert, the introvert, the know-it-all and the ambitious steamroller. No matter what the mix, there’s always someone who dominates the discussion, and others who defer to that person out of frustration–or worse, complacency.”
Truthfully, I think Gilbert misses the point–most people don’t speak up not out of frustration or complacency–but rather from fear…fear of sounding stupid, fear of people disagreeing with them, and fear of management retribution for saying the”wrong” thing.
In any case, his reflection on how some at IBM deal with this is helpful (although frankly I’ve heard this approach before and it was from a strategic planning class I believe, and not from IBM):
– Everyone writes their input on sticky notes.
– You go around the room where everyone contributes an idea and posts their note to the wall or board (and you keep doing this until ideas are exhausted).
– The facilitator groups like ideas/sticky notes to start to form common theme and direction.
– The group may go out and come back again for another round of ideas and input.
The point is everyone contributes to the discussion…no idea is a bad idea…and not one in the room is left to sit idly in the corner playing with their smartphone, daydreaming, or picking their noses.
Through vetting and discussion, the best idea(s) become evident.
I like how Gilbert ends his article emphasizing the importance of getting everyone’s ideas out there…”Once you know something, you can’t unknow it–you have to act.”
Knowing what everyone really thinks is half the battle.
The other half is executing on the really great ideas that people come up with (Gilbert doesn’t address this).
And again for that you need EVERYONE to contribute their talents…big mouths, naysayers, and do nothings begone! 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)