People hate being the bearer of bad news, but if you ask me, bad news is much better than no news.
One of the worst things that you can do to an innovator is to ignore their ideas, no matter if they are good ones or not.
I’ve seen too many innovation programs waylaid by the lack of proper, timely response to the submission of an idea. I get it, no one like giving bad news. No one likes saying to someone “Sorry, but we are not going to move forward with your idea,” but the alternative, not saying anything, is worse.
There is proof that if you want to maximize employee engagement, as well as gather the best ideas from your participants, you need to provide feedback early and often, even if it is negative feedback. An amiable denial is even better than an automated response, since, within the amiable denial, you can help to guide the inventor towards ideas more aligned with your goal. Also though it may be uncomfortable to communicate denial, it’s much better from both the employee engagement side and the innovation side. Making “rejection great again” may cause short term discomfort, but in the long run, is better all around.
Provide some guidance – but not too much guidance – lest you lead the inventor down a specific path and squelch their creative drive.
This is why it is also essential to set forth clear challenges and boundaries that you wish them to innovate within, but still leave open space for the wild, far-out ideas which may be truly disruptive. Some of these very disruptive ideas may be unnerving or uncomfortable, envisioning scenarios which you may find so hard to believe that you place them in the realm of the impossible, but unless they break the laws of physics, near anything is possible. Even if you are in a highly regulated field, such as healthcare or financial services, and some of these ideas may be out of your current regulatory bounds, there may be some value is pursuing those ideas.
A solid dominant corporate performer today may disappear in a few years if some smaller competitors enter the space and nibble away at the more prominent companies market share with offers more tuned to the market.
For example, many of the services that a typical bank offers today can now be provided by using a bundle of individual service providers. These companies can individually supply each of payments, credit cards, loans, mortgages, savings accounts – and more and more customers, especially Millenials and Generation Z, are choosing this best-of-breed route, versus a full-service bank, thus lessening the market for such a bank.
The financial services industry is only one of many being disrupted by this kind of vertical service provider, slicing market share away from the supposed behemoths in a space.
How long before your competitors swarm around you and take you down like Krall’s swarm ships did the Enterprise in Star Trek: Beyond? The last thing you want is one of your leadership to report to your CEO as Spock did to Kirk: “Captain, we are not equipped for this manner of engagement.”
Listen to your inventors, even if they may sound crazy too – there could be a nugget of future truth there that you cannot afford to ignore.