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The Suggestion Box - Where Great Ideas Go to Die

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Jun 9, 2014 8:40:00 AM

shutterstock_162914114We think there’s a reason why the quintessential suggestion box looks like a little coffin with a slit in the top.  It’s where suggestions (aka, ideas, feedback, and complaints) go to die.  Let’s face it, everyone feels really good on the day the suggestion box is nailed to the wall.  The memo says something like, “We value your input and want to hear from you how we can improve.”  And, generally, the good feeling ends there.  There’s got to be a better way.  Let’s explore.

Thanks for Nothing

The problem with the suggestion box model is that, usually, both sides of the equation end up unsatisfied.  Whoever has the responsibility of reviewing the suggestions is often disheartened by complaints presented with no proposed solution, impossible requests, redundant diatribes on known issues, and general “smart aleckry” (i.e. free beer at lunch).  This noise makes it difficult to sort out the good ideas that are mingled among the whatnot.  The people who submitted those good ideas are equally let down when nothing happens.  Soon any benefit to the approach wears off and the suggestion box either gathers dust or becomes an in-real-life meme.

Why is That?

The suggestion box is a one-way model.  It’s a box!  There’s no built-in structure for assigning accountability for identifying, acting on and tracking great ideas.  There’s not even a guarantee that ideas will be reviewed at all or that great ones will be elevated above the inane.  Will employees be rewarded for submitting their best proposals?  Who knows? 

What if we Make it Digital?

Taking a real-world thing, like a box and recreating it online only advances the idea if it is transformed.  A digital box is slightly better than a physical box (better because you can put stuff in it from anywhere), but if the approach is the same, the results will be as well.  The problem with the suggestion box isn’t that it is a physical thing, it is that it is not accompanied by the structure that allows excellent ideas to be implemented, measured and rewarded.  Sans that, putting it online doesn’t help keep ideas alive.

But What if we Really Want Those Suggestions?

Companies that are serious about continuous improvement and gathering ideas from employees are far better off investing in a continuous improvement platform that unifies the entire organization around finding opportunities for improvement and provides structure for each idea from inception to a measurable return on investment.  Rather than feeling ignored, employees become actively engaged in the successful implementation of great ideas and management has concrete data to demonstrate success. 

Kill the box, not the suggestions. 

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