Newmeasures: Insights for an exceptional workforce

Encouraging New Ideas

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm with two small jumps.”

What to Know

Employees who are closest to the work are often the ones who have the best ideas for changes, improvements and problem-solving. Asking employees for their input on a regular basis is empowering and sends the message that employee expertise is valued and leveraged.


Change is necessary, but reinventing the wheel isn’t. Before jumping into a big change or deciding to move forward with a new idea, challenge yourself and others to think through the pros and cons. Consider the anticipated and unanticipated impact. Identify who else the change may affect and invite them into the conversation. Welcome and encourage all new ideas and be thoughtful about taking action.

What Managers Can Do

Publicly recognize and reward new ideas, even if they are small incremental changes.

It is important to create an environment where new ideas are welcome, personal risk taking is encouraged, and creativity is valued. Stress the importance of creativity and set aside time for brainstorming in meetings.

When new ideas are being generated, practice giving the additive feedback of “yes, and…” in response to an idea rather than “no, but…” This can unleash positive energy that builds a collaborative climate.

Having fun with colleagues and trying new activities together can help us to look at things in a new way. One great way to spur new ideas is to create a competition for the most innovative approach to solve a particular problem.

Provide the resources needed to implement the ideas worth acting upon and recognize those responsible for generating the idea.

What Employees Can Do

Sometimes we propose new ideas that are great but not aligned with the priorities of the organization. Other times, the team may not have the bandwidth to take on something new. Check with your manager or team to see where your efforts will be most appreciated – where do others see the greatest need for change? Are there initiatives on the backburner that you can take charge of and own?

You have great ideas and others do too. When you come up with a suggestion, run it by others to see if you can tweak and refine the idea before bringing it to your manager and/or other teams.

Confusion, slow processes, lack of information, or interpersonal conflict may be red flags that you can improve the workflow. When you feel frustrated or stuck, ask others for their ideas. See if you can put your heads together to come up with new or modified approaches.

What Leadership Can Do

Set the tone for what employees should be innovating around. Is it the customer experience, products, process improvement?

Share stories of not only successful innovations, but also situations where employees may have taken a risk that failed. Employees are more likely to try out new ideas when they feel comfortable that it is ok to try something and potentially fail.

Use social media as a way of posing questions and ask for solutions. Ask employees to vote on the best idea.

Provide the resources needed to implement the ideas worth acting upon and recognize those responsible for generating the idea.


Job Crafting – on creating meaning in your own work

Coaching for Innovation: Tools and Techniques for Encouraging New Ideas in the Workplace by Cristina Bianchi and Maureen Steele

Ideaship: How to Get Ideas Flowing into the Workplace by Jack Foster