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03/16/2010

Entrepreneurial Tip Corner: Hey, What’s The Big Idea?


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It may sound corny, but ideas are part of what made this country great. Good ideas sometimes come from the most unlikely sources. The company owner or manager does not necessarily have the best ideas or all the right answers. Here are some ways in which you can build a team of employees who provide you with good ideas on a regular basis. 

Encourage team building by holding regularly scheduled meetings with key members of your organization. Meetings should always have an agenda, and all persons attending should be asked, in advance, if they have any topics to add to the agenda.

All attendees should be encouraged to offer their opinions on all topics no matter how far-fetched. This will stimulate the brainstorming process and assure that policies and action plans developed will have the support of the key people.

Be sure that all actions are agreed to, documented and followed up on for the next meeting.

Create an atmosphere of trust, understanding and loyalty, where employees are free to let their thoughts and imaginations run wild. Allow employees to fully communicate their ideas without reproach.

You should encourage all employees to try to “think outside the box” and develop unique and non-traditional solutions to perceived problems.

Develop a reward system for employees who propose unique solutions, even if you don’t implement them. The reward can be a simple and inexpensive gesture, such as a $50 gift card. Increase the value of the reward if the solution is in fact implemented, such as $100 gift card or dinner for two.

Another way to recognize employees who contribute ideas is to post them on a bulletin board in the lunch/break room or another common area where it may be seen by all employees. It may seem “cheesy”, but most people like to see their name recognized publicly, and those who have not been recognized will try harder to come up with a meaningful idea for the next meeting.

Dot com giant Google encourages their employees to spend 20% of their working hours creating new ideas or projects, which may eventually benefit the company. I am not advocating that all organizations follow Google’s lead, but encouraging and nurturing the development of new ideas, techniques, and procedures is likely to improve employee morale and result in operational improvement.

We can all learn from this riddle presented to me as a first-grader:

What is the biggest room in the world?

Give up? Well it’s room for improvement.

Yes, it sounds corny, but it’s true.

You may be surprised that some of the quiet or shy people in the organization are really deep thinkers and are capable of thinking outside the box and resolving business problems or coming up with solutions or more efficient ways to perform operational tasks. You may also be pleasantly surprised at the improvement in attitude and morale. Employees like to know that their opinions matter!


--Michael Herz, CPA, MBA

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