Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2012

Finding Illumination From Bright Ideas

by Rick Boxx

Years ago, suggestions boxes were a common tool at many businesses for soliciting comments, complaints and ideas from both customers and employees. Today, however, communications technology is making the traditional suggestion box obsolete. It is being replaced by online idea-submission systems, according to the prominent business publication, The Wall Street Journal. 

These new systems not only receive ideas, but also allow employees the opportunity to comment and vote on other suggestions. It gives them an opportunity to feel like their employers care about them and are willing to listen to what they have to say. Many times they offer a fresh perspective, presenting bright ideas that might not have been considered at the upper levels of management.

For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global professional services firm headquartered in London, England, launched an idea-management website that generated 3,300 new ideas. Although less than 200 of the ideas have been implemented to date, those that were put into use saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The fact is that employees often know the company products and processes better than consultants that come in from the outside, yet many organizations have never considered asking their staff for ideas. Years ago, “quality circles” and other strategies enabled businesses to enlist ideas and insights from employees who were working “in the trenches,” dealing directly with machinery, systems and established practices that were being evaluated. Who better to offer helpful ideas than the people who must do the actual work on a day-to-day basis?

 

In the Bible’s Old Testament we find numerous affirmations of the value and importance of seeking advice and wise counsel. Proverbs 12:15 teaches, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” If we are willing to receive and give full consideration to advice offered, even from individuals stationed much lower on the organizational chart, we demonstrate wisdom.

Another verse states the case even more strongly: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Proverbs 11:14). This principle is just as relevant for a company as it is for a nation. And as if to make certain we did not miss this recommendation, Proverbs 15:22 states it a bit differently: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

In many organizations, the advice of a consultant from outside is valued more highly than the ideas of those on the company payroll. I don’t want to minimize the potential contributions of consultants, since being “outsiders” gives them the ability to consider situations from impartial, objective perspective.

At the same time, I would strongly recommend that you avoid overlooking the collective wisdom of your staff. If you make it easy and open for all to present their “bright ideas,” you might find they have ideas that could save you a lot of money – and quite possibly, initiate some very important changes for improvement, enhanced productivity and increased profitability.

Copyright 2012, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.

 

Reflection/Discussion Questions

1.  Do you remember the traditional “suggestion box”? If so, did you ever take the opportunity to submit some of your ideas?

 

2.  How often have you utilized online idea-submission systems, whether to offer comments within your own business or to respond as a customer to other companies? Do you think this is a useful practice? Explain your answer.

 

3.  In your view, how receptive is your organization to receiving comments and suggestions from employees? Can you think of any “bright ideas” from them that led to significant, positive changes?

 

4.  Why do you think that sometimes it is difficult to solicit advice, especially from within the organization? Do you agree with the implication from the passages in Proverbs that the person who refuses to be open to advice (or wise counsel) is a fool? Why or why not?

 

NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:

 Proverbs 13:1, 19:20,27, 20:18, 24:5-6, 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Matthew 13:57