Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

Idea Generators
There is a great deal of "buzz" in the corporate marketplace about the value of innovation and creativity and its role in generating sustainable performance improvement. Most organizations we know of certainly have Leadership Competencies that include those two attributes on their checklist of essential leadership behaviours. On the other hand, they sometimes forget that, at the very core of the innovation gene, there is something called "the idea".

The Idea Factory

We are in the middle of a revolution - an idea revolution - and organizations will improve their chances of winning based less on innovation per se, than on their ability to harness and polish raw ideas. In their book Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder book "Ideas Are Free" promote that stimulating, promoting and fostering the "idea factory" within the organization is an absolute prerequisite to the much-valued outcome, which is "innovation".

In a recent study published in Fast Company Magazine, failure to capture ideas costs organizations upwards of $1.4 trillion a year in the United States alone. In every organization there are rich and deep hidden seams of "ideas" that, like any mineral body, have to be discovered, mined and then refined. Organizations must, therefore, find a way to spend a substantially greater amount of time 'auditioning' ideas that are brought forth by their employees.

Mining the Database

How many employees do you have?

How many of them are formally requested to mine their own mental database and provide you with ideas?

You might measure their productivity and their performance but do you measure who amongst them generates the most ideas? The best ideas?

Silly isn't it? We somehow know that innovation and creativity are important. We know they provide value. We know they can help differentiate us from our competitors. We know it will keep us in the game but we never ask (I mean really ask) for ideas.

It doesn't matter if the employees are on the factory floor, or all hold Master's Degrees (or both). If you stack them all up on top of each other, they are sure to be smarter than any one person alone and, guess what – Ideas are Free. In the idea revolution, your only weapon is the idea itself.

Stop the Bribery

Bribery does not work and Suggestion Boxes are a gimmick from the 1950's that never really worked either. When it comes to generating ideas - stop offering promotions, enough with the sales gimmicks, collect all the coupons.

These days, ideas are free. In order to succeed in the future, organizations must find a way to implement genuine, frequent and energized 'blue sky' brainstorming sessions. These meetings should involve employees from all levels of the organization and should be informal and fast paced.
The idea here is not to perfect the idea but to generate ideas. Random ideas that are not necessarily linked, but might represent some thinking that is at the edge, on the fringe or even from the far side. Do it often enough and the pulse of the organisation might even quicken.

What is an Idea?

Good question?

Ideas can be about breakthrough products or services, or small, incremental changes that lead to cost savings or efficiencies across the organization. Either way, ideas are thoughts, fancies, notions – ideas are intangible. However, they are the most valuable hidden item on your balance sheet.

Quick, it’s getting away!!

How many times does this type of thing have to happen: An employee has an idea, realizes its potential, and takes it to senior management who promptly shoot it down. At this point, the employee decides to take that idea to a more open-minded organization that will support (and ultimately profit from) the idea. How is it that so many companies don't have some sort of review system to ensure that every idea is thoroughly examined, logged, and revisited – regularly? If we are truly in an idea revolution – that is similar to poorly managed funds.

I before E

Far too many organizations spend a disproportionate amount of their time and effort developing strategies which they then ask people to execute. They then conduct a single brainstorming session to come up with new ideas to include in their strategy. Organizations would be better advised to find ways to develop their ideas in real time rather than rely upon formal planning events or strategy sessions.

In Our Opinion
The Beacon Group's Thoughts on Harnessing Ideas

Hire a Prospector - Designate someone whose job it is to find ideas and present ALL of them to the management team.

Add Ideas to the Dashboard - How many ideas has your organization collected this month? How many were acted upon? What was the financial benefit of each idea? Great companies track their ideas.

Buy an Option - There are times when an idea is truly ahead of its time. Be sure to make a list of such ideas. This list should be reviewed on a regular basis, so, as time passes, ideas are not forgotten and can be embraced as the timing dictates. They represent an option on the future.

Don't Reward Individuals with Money - Reward them with opportunity, space, and encouragement to continue searching for more ideas. People are far more responsive to recognition and respect. Therefore, as your 'great idea' people emerge, create an environment where they can thrive. If they come up with a great idea, give them a day off to go find another one.

Be Competitive – Challenge departments to come up with the highest number of ideas. Compete to see how many of them are actually implemented. Healthy rivalry will stimulate all employees to continually challenge themselves to be 'checked in' to their work.

Our Monthly Rant
Hey Wait, That's My Idea!

Because ideas are free and there is no limit on the number of ideas out there and no patents can be granted on the idea (just the invention) this is maybe one part of the business world where it is actually OK to steal.

Now, we don't mean that literally and we are not promoting illegal behaviour but if you think about it for a minute, how often is an idea hoisted up the flagpole and just left there to flap in the wind. No one wants it. No one notices it. No one sees how that idea might link to another idea in order to create something special.

Many organizations employ fast follower strategies to help themselves get up to speed. At a time like this, where competition is moving at the speed of light, you must be honest with yourself, and if you find yourself trailing the pack, do whatever you can to catch up.

To get started… steal the idea idea first.
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