Don’t Let Good Ideas Die

Leaders who focus solely on “the next big thing” may pass by numerous employees’ suggestions and solutions.

Yet those small ideas often have the potential to deliver big savings in terms of time, money and productivity. So whenever a worker offers a good idea, no matter how small, stop and ask: “Where else in the organization could that idea be used?”

A single small idea can be applied in many other places, ultimately turning it into a big idea. But it’s easy to miss the opportunity. Consider the following small idea from an appliance salesman at a nationwide retailer:

Customers often bought refrigerators without realizing that the new appliance wouldn’t fit through their doorways. Delivery crews would often damage both the appliance and the doorway before boxing up the refrigerator and returning it to the warehouse.

Nationwide, the problem was costing the retailer millions of dollars. The salesman’s solution? Cut pieces of string to the length of the appliance’s critical dimensions and staple them to the customer receipt. Then ask customers to use the string to check the doorways and to call immediately if the appliance is too wide.

The salesperson’s co-workers adopted the idea, as did several other stores in the area. But the suggestion never raveled to more than 2,000 locations, so the company squandered the idea’s huge potential.

Does your organization have a system in place to capture and capitalize on small ideas?

— Adapted from “Big Results From Small Ideas,” Alan Robinson, Industrial Management, Institute of Industrial Engineers, http://www.iienet.org.

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