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Idea Pooling – How Organisations Can Learn From Their People To Be Socially Relevant

Idea Pooling – How Organisations Can Learn From Their People To Be Socially Relevant

An idea is a plan, suggestion, or possible course of action.

Collins Dictionary

Ideas find us in many ways, from the grand epiphany to the gentle nudge. But they all have one thing in common: They all carry a promise of change. Ideas help us connect the dots between reality and possibility, clearly enough to inform action. In this sense, ideas also carry a message of hope, a commodity we cannot have in excess. 

So what’s your initial response when someone says I have an idea?

To appreciate how deeply ideas can resonate, think about your favourite TED talk. 

Ideas are elemental to who we are, embodying both our greatest aspirations and creative abilities. 

It’s no surprise that organisations have clued on to the untapped resource. They want some of it, understandably. True to their nature, ideas create new options for them. Options they need to thrive. And in the current business climate, this need is more pronounced and far more pressing than ever. 

Why Organisations Need More Ideas

Historically, companies have turned to ideation sessions and experts for new thinking to answer their most existential questions. Typically these are questions on sources of growth, how to leverage technology and (of course) differentiation. It’s easy to see how these questions link directly to the bottom line. But organisations are learning that to stay relevant, they must address a larger set of questions. Here are a few examples:

  1. How do we stay true to our values in an evolving context?
  2. What is our ethical stance on the climate, diversity, inclusion, privacy, animal rights, working conditions and flexibility among others?
  3. What actions can we take to become better citizens?

Because consumers today are responsive to these issues, they hold the organisation to high standards, voting with their purchasing power. And so, in addition to the standard question set, organisations today need to mature their thinking on broader themes to stay relevant. They don’t just operate in a marketplace, they also operate in society. They need to become responsible members of society, with a conscience and values, like everyone else. This is a nuanced problem that can’t be solved with binary thinking. Getting it right on the social front will require a new set of ideas.

At this point, the question of whose ideas to run with becomes crucial. It’s also important to note that mature thinking here is not a skill set you can hire for but a stance to embrace. Since executive teams may not look like the markets and societies they serve just yet (to be sure, many of these teams are making a concerted effort and remarkable progress in this domain), there’s a strong case for allowing more voices to speak into this stance. Thankfully, companies already have direct access to a subset of society that they can use to generate and validate new ideas. That subset is their existing human capital. So how can they leverage this resource?

How To Leverage People’s Ideas In Organisations

Getting people to contribute their ideas is not a simple matter. Unlike a job that has a clear description, people’s ideas are personal to them. And for organisations to access those ideas, they’d have to master the delicacies of dealing with human beings. Thankfully, it’s not rocket science. There are things organisations can do to ensure they’re getting the people side of things right.

Make Employees Feel Appreciated

A 2020 HBR article echoes research findings that when people experience gratitude from their manager, they’re more productive. The article then articulates five strategies managers in organisations can adopt to make their employees feel appreciated.

Since ideas are so elemental to who we are, people naturally share their best ideas in environments where they feel appreciated. That’s why a focus on the employee experience is a necessary first step in bringing employees’ ideas forward. 

See Also

Ask For Ideas

Not everyone will share their thoughts without being asked. This is easily addressable. Ask for it. Asking sends a clear message that employee ideas are wanted and needed. If only it were that simple. In this riveting Forbes article aptly titled How The Army Got Soldiers To Share Their Great IdeasBryce Hoffman, writing on the experiences of two army commanders creating a shared idea pool to solve major challenges noted:

the real challenge, they soon discovered, was changing the culture to take advantage…

Interestingly, the pushback came from both rank and file staff as well as leaders. This article highlights the likely cultural challenges an organisation might face in its journey to becoming the type that receives ideas from its people.

It’s also helpful to note that there’s a right way to ask for ideas. Some topics are sensitive and employees would prefer sharing their ideas in person, to someone they know and trust, one to one. Other topics are more suited to a round table style discussion.

Create Incentives For Sharing Ideas

The reality of organisations today is that many employees work at (or near) capacity. Meaning that time spent sharing ideas is unplanned. So the employee has a decision to make: Do I want to use my time for sharing ideas? Some employees may well be driven by altruism, but on aggregate, the flow of ideas is helped by the right incentives. In the example of the two army commanders above, recognition of the unit with the best idea proved a consequential incentive. 


Idea pooling is not a magic wand that will transform organisations into more human corporations. But the journey towards becoming the organisation that listens to its own is a key part of developing the humility and maturity needed to tackle broader social issues.

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