Ideas Are Free - A Book Summary


Without great ideas, no organization can stay afloat, much less flourish. Managers and top executives are constantly struggling to come up with big ones - creative marketing strategies, ingenious cost-cutting schemes and other corporate solutions that will save time and money and improve productivity. But what few of them realize is that right under their noses is a virtually limitless source of valuable ideas - ideas that can revolutionize their company and help bring substantial and sustainable competitive advantage. These great ideas come, surprisingly, from the lowest point of the corporate food chain - from the frontline employees who do the "dirty" work and who therefore see a lot of problems and opportunities that their managers do not.

Employee ideas are a lot more valuable than most managers think. More importantly, they can be had virtually for free, if you know how. This book teaches the most effective methods for tapping this "hidden" resource, based on extensive research in more than 300 organizations around the world. It offers precise techniques for setting up an idea management system that can empower your people, transform your organization and make you a much more effective leader.

The Idea Revolution

In traditional companies there are two distinct types of workers:

1. The thinkers - the supervisors, managers and other executives; and

2. The doers - the frontline employees.

The rationale behind this division is that regular workers are not capable of the kind of critical thinking needed for problem solving and strategy formulation, and therefore they should not participate in brainstorming.

The Idea Revolution invites you to break free from this old, limiting thinking pattern and to change the rules, because the truth is that although your frontline workers may indeed not have the knack for strategic planning, they do possess other, equally valuable type of knowledge - detailed, practical information about the company's daily operations, and common sense. Because they are actually where the action is, so to speak, they see a lot of things that you do not - what the customers really need, what machines are not working, what is being wasted. And often they know what to do to make things better.

The only thing you need to do is to ask and to welcome, not discourage, their ideas.

Why Employee Ideas are Important

In most organizations only the first type of knowledge is encouraged. The other kind is not only discouraged, but actually suppressed. But actually both are needed to run an efficient company. Managers and employees need to cooperate, to contribute what they know in order to come up with workable solutions and significant improvements.

Managers and supervisors can tend to generalize issues and gloss over certain details, while employees who work directly with what is causing the problem know exactly what is wrong and what should be done about it. Their knowledge of the problem is direct and intimate, and they can provide accurate solutions. They know things by experience, not by theory.

The Power of Small Ideas

Big ideas are always more attractive - they are splashier, grander, always more promising. Managers are therefore more likely to weed out "small" ideas and go for the really big ones, the "home runs" - those that could help generate millions of dollars in revenue or topple the competition, instantly. But when it comes to ideas, small does not always mean ineffective or weak. In fact, in organizations it is often smarter to focus on small ideas rather than on big ones.

Idea Management

As simple as it sounds, getting and using employee ideas to improve your organization's performance entails a lot of planning, preparation and hard work. Two crucial issues that you would have to deal with are:

? How can the employees be encouraged or motivated to come up with so many ideas?

? Who has time to deal with all of them?

After all, once the ideas start pouring in, they would each have to be evaluated, and then implemented. These are non-value adding tasks that can take up all of your valuable time. The only way you can effectively manage employee ideas is by setting up a good idea system, one that will make the process, which can become messy, organized and productive.

Profound Change

By encouraging the free flow of ideas, you will have the opportunity to bring about a profound transformation within your organization, one that could not only boost its overall performance, but would also liberate the people who work within it.

Idea systems have the power to change the very culture of an organization, by bringing about more trust, respect, openness, commitment and harmony among its people.

When employees see that their ideas are valued, their attitudes change, from one of detachment and frustration to involvement and fulfillment. This not only uplifts the quality of their lives, but also brings about real growth in the organization.

By: Regine P. Azurin and Yvette Pantilla

Regine Azurin is the President of BusinessSummaries.com, a company that provides business book summaries of the latest bestsellers for busy executives and entrepreneurs.

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