How to set up a suggestion scheme or suggestion box

If you are looking to set up a suggestion scheme or suggestion box at work, there are some critical things to consider.

You can find plenty of advice on how to set-up a suggestion scheme on the web because, to be blunt, lots of organisations have tried and failed. I hope this will be a fresh and interesting approach.

I see it as a hierarchy of needs. If this term is new to you it describes a set of needs that stack up (imagine a child’s stacking bricks toy) to make the triangle but of course, if you don’t put the bricks in the right order the stack will fall over.

In other words, you need the base first (which is senior management support), and then you need a tangible way of getting middle managers on-board and actively supporting (rather than blocking) the initiative, if you don’t have it in that order, it will topple and fail. Without those two, even the best Coms plan in the World won’t make it work. And then even if you have the bottom three, without a Manager to own the initiative, it will more likely fail than succeed – I’m sure you get how it works now.

Lots of organisations start when a senior person says “hey, how about we set up a suggestion scheme” then the IT person goes looking for an IT system. As you can see from the hierarchy, this simply won’t work.

You don’t need to go far to find some great examples of schemes that failed and, in my experience, this infographic shows why.

I am afraid the most ‘unstable’ layer is #2, “real backing from middle managers”. They can so easily scupper the scheme by giving their staff even the slightest opportunity to feel that “it’s a waste of time, he never implements anyone’s ideas anyway”.

I have blogged about the requirements that I suggest are important for a suggestion scheme in terms of software which you can access on this link.

If you are still undecided about what form your suggestion scheme will take, there are alternatives;

Competitions give you many of the benefits, but you can do it as a one-off rather than an always-on system (click this link to another page that describes the approach I would recommend).

An Intrapreneur approach which essentially looks to engage the ‘already engaged’ and mentor them to develop their ideas. You lose many of the engagement benefits because you are not trying to engage everyone, but you are more likely to find the more valuable ideas (click here to another page that describes this approach in more depth).

Mike Michael Allen TalkFreelyOr if you simply want to pick my brain, get in contact with me by emailing me,

suggestion scheme hierarchy of needs infographic

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