Companies Should be More Organized About Harnessing Employees’ Ideas

hand holding small bulbThis is your view of your workplace contribution — before your spirit is crushed:

In an Irish survey released last week, 92 percent said they had an idea that could make a positive difference to the company they work for.

Around 80 percent said employees’ ideas “can significantly drive business success.”

And “75pc said their employer and management encouraged them to come up with new ideas,” according to an article in Silicon Republic.

A cynic might ask about the sample population in that survey. Were they very young? Or just out of school or college? Or incorrigible optimists? Or plain deluded?

Because on the Harvard Business Review blog site, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic said 70 percent of all entrepreneurs come up with their ideas at work, but ultimately leave because they could not convince management of their ideas’ merit.

According to Chamorro-Premuzic:

“By failing to attend to their employees’ ideas, and continuing to demoralize their staff, bad leaders accidentally stimulate entrepreneurship. Indeed, if entrepreneurial employees (i.e., those who have the talent and drive to be inventive and enterprising) were happy at work, or at least felt that their ideas are being valued, they would contribute to innovation and growth in their employers’ organization.”

Corporate failure to harness workers’ ideas hurts company growth. But it spurs entrepreneurship, said Chamorro-Premuzic. Start-ups create new jobs, the first of which is filled when the entreprenur leaves. Entrepreneurial cultures attract talent, and offer better career opportunities for women, he said.

On the flip side, the attrition rate among start-up ventures is appalling, said Chamorro-Premuzic: “Only 30% of start-ups live past 10 years; fewer than 10% grow, and just 3% grow substantially.” He added, “Not everyone should be an entrepreneur, and leaders can do much to harness their employees creative potential without forcing them to quit and create their own business.”

That last point makes the Irish survey more revealing. According to Silicon Republic:

  • “Just 24 percent of workplaces have formal schemes in place to recognise or reward creative thinking from its employees” and
  • “Only 13 percent of the workers surveyed participate in organized brainstorms at work” even though 4 out of 5 would like to take part.

It makes you wonder about the respondents to that survey. Perhaps we are looking at a lot of pent-up entrepreneurship in corporate Ireland.

Image courtesy of Marlon Bunday on Flickr.