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Electronic Suggestion Boxes Don’t Work. Here’s What Does.

Posted by Greg Jacobson

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Nov 15, 2016 8:39:00 AM

Online Suggestion BoxAs a team of people focused on helping organizations support continuous improvement with cloud-based tools you might think that we’d be big fans of electronic suggestion boxes. But while we applaud the spirit behind the approach, we know there is a better way.

The Case Against Electronic Suggestion Boxes

The idea of collecting suggestions for improvement from employees is awesome. The digital suggestion box is not. Here’s why.

It’s a box. Do you want to put your best ideas in a box? I don’t. You put things in boxes when you want to store them, not when you want to use them. Imagine if an employee walked into your office and said, “I have a great idea!” and you said, “Go put it in the box.” Yuck.

Improvement shouldn’t be anonymous.  Many of the electronic suggestion boxes on the market allow employees to make anonymous suggestions. I find this troubling for two reasons. First of all, if the organization’s culture is such that every person on the team doesn’t feel comfortable making their suggestions out loud, something is terribly wrong. People should be empowered, encouraged and rewarded for contributing ideas for improvement. The other problem with this approach is that it makes it impossible to recognize the people who are actively engaged in positive change. That’s a crucial component of developing an improvement culture.

Collecting ideas is important, acting on them is what really matters. Boxes, as we mentioned, collect things, but they don’t do anything. It is unlikely that the biggest problem in your organization is finding problems. It’s solving them that is the bigger challenge. An electronic suggestion box won’t help with that.

The Alternative

Instead of an electronic suggestion box, consider continuous improvement software. It does the job of collecting ideas for improvement but adds so much more. Think of it not as a box, but as an innovation machine.

Step 1 - Gather Ideas. Ideas for improvement can be generated from the top by executive leaders as they define the key business objectives, or from the bottom by employees facing every day challenges and process inefficiencies. In either case, continuous improvement software serves as a platform for gathering every opportunity for improvement.

Step 2 – Act. Here’s where continuous improvement software becomes far more valuable than an electronic suggestion box. Once an idea is submitted, alerts and notifications make sure that the right people are notified and can assess the suggestion and decide whether and when to take action. A feedback loop keeps every aware and informed and workflow tools ensure that progress is maintained.

Step 3 – Measure. People (and management) get excited about improvement when the measurable business impact is maintained. Continuous improvement software makes it possible to set baselines, set improvement targets, and measure the results. It doesn’t matter if the improvement is geared to save money, increase revenue, improve quality, delight customers, or speed up production the positive impact can be calculated and shared.

Step 4 – Recognize. When people contribute ideas and effort that create improvement, their efforts should be recognized and rewarded. This is how improvement culture spreads and people gain confidence in their own ability to contribute to the success of the organization. Anonymous? Forget it.

Step 5 – Learn. The other huge advantage of continuous improvement software is that it serves as a repository for the collective wisdom of the organization. Team members can easily review past improvement projects and learn from the best practices and warnings they reveal. The organization gets better at improvement each time they take on a challenge.

Like we said, if you are considering an electronic suggestion box, your heart is in exactly the right place. But if you want to really see results and get every employee fired up about positive change, go with continuous improvement software instead.

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Topics: Suggestion Systems