At many companies, the mindset of managers stifles innovation and inhibits profitability. Some of the best money making ideas come from people who work on the front lines. Yet, employees often hear the same negative responses when they try to share them.

Suggestions for Your Suggestion Box

A trend in some workplaces is to set up an online suggestion box for ease of use. To protect anonymity, ask your technology department about using a content management system, where users can click on a link such as, "Make a Suggestion," and enter their comments without revealing their identity. Of course, some employees will still be reluctant. For them, you can still maintain an old-fashioned suggestion box as well.

Publicize successful suggestions and give credit to those who came up with the ideas. That may be the best way to encourage future innovation.

The best way to discourage suggestions is to let them go unread. Don't think employees won't notice if the suggestion box is collecting dust.

Does your management team react to suggestions with these phrases?

    • Don't be ridiculous.
    • We're not ready for that.
    • Let's shelve it for right now.
    • That won't work here.
    • We need to think about it some more.
    • Where did you dig up that idea?
    • It's too radical.
    • We've done okay until now without it.
    • It's not practical.
    • We've never done anything like that before.
    • It's too risky.
    • Please, let's get back to reality and be sensible.
    • We can't afford it.
    • It's too much work.
  • You can't be serious.

Obviously, a few of these answers are appropriate in some cases. But if your staff members hear them all the time, you're sinking ideas that could make your company more profitable and efficient.

Better idea: Set up a suggestion box program so that employees have a formal system in place to propose ideas.