Rosemarie Diegnan, co-Founder of Wazoku

Rosemarie Diegnan, co-Founder of Wazoku

The best ideas about how to grow your business could be sitting right in front of you, says Rosemarie Diegnan, co-Founder and Chief Strategy & Product Officer at Wazoku, an idea management and open innovation software company.

SME leaders should encourage their team to contribute new ideas to grow the business, says Rosemarie Diegnan.

She says: “Ideas can come from anywhere and often from the most unexpected places. Instead of assuming that everything comes from the top down, businesses should give everybody in the organisation a voice. It is very important to set up a structure for people to contribute ideas because business leaders don’t have all the answers - and if they believe they have all the answers, they are probably missing a lot of opportunities.”

It is vital to start by carefully defining what sort of ideas you are looking for from your team, Rosemarie says, otherwise you could end up with lots of suggestions that are not appropriate. And when you reject them, your team will think you are not serious about implementing their ideas.

“You need to give people some structure around where you are looking for ideas to come from. Decide what sort of ideas you have an appetite or capability to implement, and be very explicit about focusing on that. Right now, for example, efficiency, cost savings and productivity are really important to businesses, so if that is where you are going to focus your energy, don’t ask for big strategic ideas that you are not going to do anything with.”

She says that for example, you could ask your team for ideas about how to save an hour a week, perhaps by reducing the time being spent on an inefficient process, that could be used in more useful ways.

The best way to get ideas from everyone, and not just the extroverts in a team, is to ask for ideas to be written down and submitted – ideally through an online form - rather than suggested in a meeting or online video call, Rosemarie says.

“That way people can do it in their own time and they don’t feel like they are being put on the spot in front of a large group of people.”

She says it is also good to give your team the power and responsibility to implement the ideas that are agreed themselves. “Don’t take the position that everything has to come from the top down. Give people responsibility for implementing the ideas and recognise that some ideas you may decide to try and may not work out. But you have to be willing to let people try things.”

It is important, however, to establish at the outset how ideas can be dropped if they are not working out. “Set it up with check-in points and quick feedback loops so that if something is not working you have mechanisms in place that say, we have tried this, what would we do differently going forward. Always make sure that if you do decide to stop something you have taken the time to understand what you can learn from it. A lot of people like to use to term ‘fail fast’ – I prefer the term ‘learn fast’.

When people can see leaders taking notice of their ideas and implementing them, they will gain trust and confidence that they are actually being listened to and will begin to suggest other ideas, she says.

“Once you have established that trust it becomes a normal way of working. Most people don’t think of themselves as capable of being an innovator, so part of leadership’s role is to make people feel like they have the opportunity and capability of being an innovator.”

It is however important to make this process a regular thing in order keep the ideas flowing, Rosemarie says. “You can’t just do this once and then walk away from it. If you ask people for their ideas and start implementing them, you can’t stop, because otherwise people will be like, oh wait, so last week I had good ideas and this week I don’t? You need to be aware of what message you are sending people.”

Rosemarie’s Top Tips

1. Structure your request for ideas so it is not a free for all

2. Be transparent – do this out front not behind closed doors

3. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to try something new

Related content