Throw out employee suggestion boxes. (They don’t work — and never have.) Think twice about dangling monetary rewards to workers whose ideas save the company money. (The pitfalls are numerous; moreover, it’s not necessary.) These are just two of the surprising yet well-documented messages in Ideas are Free: How the Idea Revolution Is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations (Berrett-Koehler Publishers).
Authors Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder provide compelling examples from their study of some 150 companies, large and small, one of which averaged 104 ideas per employee in 2002.
The book’s big idea also seems counterintuitive: Encourage small ideas — lots of bunt singles, not grand slams. Why? Small ideas are easier to come up with and act upon. They help encourage a company culture where big ideas become more likely. And, because they’re less likely to be detected or copied by competitors, they “accumulate into a considerable cushion of sustainable competitive advantage.”