Entrepreneurial flight - nesting ideas

Written by
Changeboard Team

30 Oct 2014

30 Oct 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Employee collaboration & winning solutions

With the growth of Enterprise 2.0 software platforms such as Sharepoint, Yammer and Huddle, organizations can now create social workplaces and help employees connect with one another whether it’s through video conferencing, discussion forums, chat functions, or building collective wikis. Yet, how do you turn endless conversations and discussion threads into new ideas to generate rapid innovation, spur creativity and deliver cost savings?

When a senior manager of a Fortune 500 company told me that each year, in an employee survey, they ask the question: ‘is there a two-way dialogue between management and staff’ and each year the answer is a resounding ‘no’, we set out to create a communication tool to enable such a dialogue and give CEOs and leaders the potential to uncover high quality innovative ideas by involving their own employees.

We believe employees are a great source of ideas (even more so at a time when consulting budgets have been cut). Through a software enabled communication tool, companies can now engage large numbers of employees in their ideation process and challenge the employees to develop these ideas together, collaboratively. The likelihood of finding winning solutions increases with the number of ideas and brings diversity of perspectives from different departments, ensuring the full collective intelligence of the group is brought to bear. In addition, the group gains a sense of ownership in the ideas through co-creating them. This in turn increases the commitment to implement the innovations successfully.

Happiness & engagement = success

There is a growing body of research linking staff happiness and the success of businesses, which argues that senior management mustn’t overlook efforts to improve morale.

I’m a firm believer in the power of people if people are engaged. But what does engaged mean? It means employees should understand the mission of the company, and believe that they themselves can impact the success of the business. With that knowledge and belief, employees are empowered to shape their roles and daily actions so as to align them best with the goals of the organisation. And, this level of understanding and empowerment makes the experience at work more fulfilling.

Just as happiness and business success are linked, employee engagement has been shown to be a key component of happiness. I feel the benefits of happiness and engagement comes from many sources; for example, happy employees have a positive outlook that they bring to interactions with customers and other team members, are more likely to try to solve problems, and bring more energy and greater productivity to their work.

Employees are assets and often they are underutilized. Through nurturing talent and engaging employees, leaders can improve the happiness of their employees – which of itself is beneficial through improving staff retention – and get an additional return on this investment in the form of higher productivity and greater innovation.

Cross pollination of ideas: 3 x case studies

Hachette UK – Q&A conference session

Chris Emerson, chief operating officer for Hachette UK, the largest publisher in the UK with offices in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and brands that include: Hodder, Headline, and Little, Brown, were holding a conference for 450 employees. The conference was focused on the major strategic challenges facing the publishing industry. Attendees included employees from numerous different publishers (subsidiaries), departments and countries.

The management team turned to Codigital to create a solution designed to engage the group, and get them thinking about this important issue, ahead of the conference. Codigital delivered a micro-site and attendees were asked, four weeks ahead of the event, to collaboratively develop questions around what they thought were the top challenges facing the business. These questions were to be answered by the CEO and COO at the conference.

Attendees were sent an email by the group communications director inviting them to add questions, rank each other’s questions, and suggest edits to the questions so as to improve them collaboratively.

The group then developed a prioritized list of 66 questions and the top 10 were addressed at the conference. The top one, framed in just two sentences, had been co-created by 19 people across several departments and subsidiaries.

“Codigital enabled us to deliver fast results, and do something that we couldn’t have achieved any other way. We didn’t want to be inundated with 450 emails to attempt to summarize, or a discussion forum containing vast amounts of conversation to review and analyze,” comments Emerson. “The group attendees told us they felt the Q&A session was one of the best of the conference, because our employees had driven the discussion. Ultimately it enabled a two-way dialogue between senior management and our attendees. It gave our employees a voice and ensured they were heard while senior management gained valuable insight from our staff.”

 90octane – ideation

Sam Eidson, CEO of 90octane, a fast growing interactive marketing agency, was faced with a challenge: how could they preserve the company culture, or better still improve it, while growing their staff rapidly?

Sam Eidson explains: “Ahead of a period of rapid new employee intake, we wanted to make sure that our new hire landing process was first class. Who better to generate ideas on this than staff that had been through our process, and would be training the next group? We turned to our existing employee workforce of 50 and through the Codigital platform we asked our people to submit their ideas, rank them so those with most support rose to the top, and suggest improvements to each other’s ideas so that they evolved in a way that benefitted from the perspective of different departments.”

Eidson valued the fact that they were engaging their existing staff – showing that the company valued their ideas and opinions – and sourcing creative ideas from their workforce to improve their landing process.

He says: “The ideation process worked superbly. Staff likened the online exercise to the dynamics of a brainstorming session. The group quickly generated an excellent list of initiatives and all members of staff from junior up to senior level were able to play their part. The process ensured the staff bought in to the initiatives, which increases their likelihood of being executed effectively, and our staff knew we valued their input.”

The Gathering Place – meaningful engagement

Leslie Foster, CEO of The Gathering Place, a non-profit catering for the homeless in Denver, Colorado, was planning to re-write their mission statement. In the non-profit world this is a significant challenge since it is vital that all stakeholders – the board, donors, employees, volunteers and clients – believe in, and rally behind, the mission.

Many non-profits take up to a year to develop a new mission statement. Typically the process takes the form of surveys and focus groups to identify the words that resonate with the group, conference calls and meetings to draft the mission, and then further meetings to explain and gather support for the new mission statement. 

Foster states: “One of our board members told us about Codigital. Through this technology platform we were able to involve 75 people in writing our new mission statement and we were able to achieve in weeks what we’d expected to take months. But perhaps most importantly, the transparent democratic process ensured that our entire organization was fully supportive of our new mission. Our senior team will be using Codigital again when we start collaborating on a new vision for our organization.”