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How to design a Suggestion Scheme that works brilliantly!

Article:  By Dennis Keay

I’ve seen lots of suggestion schemes in my time…most of them doomed to failure due to poor design.

If someone asked me, “What could we do to design a suggestion scheme that IS doomed to failure?”, here are some of the things I might suggest:

  • Expect suggestions to be written, in English, when many people aren’t good at expressing their thoughts in writing nor in English. Some concepts are explained better verbally and/or demonstrated physically;
  • Treat the suggestions as ‘secret’ so that they all go into a sealed box which acts like a black hole. They go in, never to be seen or heard of again;
  • Don’t give people feedback as to whether their suggestion was received, reviewed, rejected, or is pending acceptance/implementation;
  • Don’t give appropriate feedback to the team as to timeframes regarding when suggestions will be reviewed, or why particular suggestions are accepted while others are not—i.e. don’t have a well-defined and communicated review process and criteria for acceptance;
  • Don’t have a means of prioritising, planning and resourcing implementation of approved suggestions;
  • Leave the scheme open to criticism of favouritism, bias and ‘teacher’s pet’ accusations by NOT making the evaluation of suggestions transparent and objective or robust in nature;
  • Have the suggestions reviewed by the busiest person in the business (e.g. the Boss), who may not get around to reviewing the suggestions regularly due to other priorities;
  • Have the suggestions reviewed by someone (e.g. the Boss) who may be too far removed from where and how the suggestions are to be implemented to really understand the costs, benefits and consequences of implementing or not implementing them;
  • Jump to conclusions, striking suggestions out as ‘stupid ideas that won’t work’ without exploring how they could be made to work; Belittle the suggestion maker at the same time…just for good measure!
  • Don’t have appropriate incentives to encourage people to participate in the suggestion scheme;
  • Only reward individuals if their suggestion is implemented;
  • Use only financial rewards;
  • Don’t consider psychological and cultural issues, group dynamics and peer-group pressure when one person’s suggestions are accepted and that person is rewarded by the business, while others become jealous of him/her and discourage that person from making further suggestions;
  • Don’t create ‘win-win’ outcomes for all stakeholders (e.g. the team), when suggestions are accepted and implemented;
  • Don’t consider how implementation of a suggestion may adversely impact particular individuals (physically and emotionally), and don’t have a means of addressing those concerns. Sometimes there are fears that need to be addressed, even if those fears are not supported by the facts of the situation;

So, how do you to make a Suggestion Scheme that works really well?  The answer is simple and complex: Design an elegant system that addresses each of the above points.  ‘Simple’ because there are a number of steps to follow, and ‘complex’ because there’s human nature and psychology to take into account.

We’ve designed such as system! If you’d like to talk to us about it, feel free to contact us at .

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