How to collect innovative ideas from employees?

 In Idea Generation, Problem Solving

Do you know in 2008, an invention by a five-year-old on “Sweeping device with two heads” got patented? Some may consider this a shot in the dark, others may simply admit: an idea doesn’t need the mind to be a great scientist.

As an IP firm, we at GreyB always follow a synergic and collaborative approach towards our projects, and give credence to one’s word- “none of us is smarter than all of us”. The major reason behind this company’s presence on the top of the ladder.

Almost every R&D team has team members with the potential to come up with a leading-edge solution to a problem. The problem, however, is these team members keep those ideas to them due to, but not limited to:

  • The loudest person in a room
  • Fear of rejection
  • Their imperfect ways of expression

Won’t it be great if you have some idea extraction techniques for such teamies? Techniques that overcome all of such issues that make them keep their innovative ideas to themselves.

In our brief time together today, first, we will be discussing the below techniques that will help you to extract innovative ideas from your team members:

  1. Brain Writing
  2. Teach Meet

Making everyone participate is winning the half battle. If involvement is there but you are not getting quality ideas, then you have to tackle idea generation techniques of your teammates. Hence, we would be discussing these idea generation techniques as well:

  1. Star Bursting
  2. Morphological Analysis

After that, we will discuss strategies, not techniques, which can help you kill the inhibitions and barriers that keep your employees from sharing their innovative ideas. So without further ado, let’s start.

A.) Idea Extraction Techniques

1. Brain Writing

You must have encountered this issue during various brainstorming sessions – how one or two people dominate the entire meeting and shut the quiet and shy ones down. Ultimately, everything leads to a doom loop where an overly dominant person keeps talking and rest all give up.

What doesn’t work with such people? Asking them to behave! Or control them. As they lack self-awareness of their dominant nature.

To avoid such dominance, Prof. Leigh Thompson came up with an amazing solution. According to her in a typical meeting involving six persons, only two people do 60% of the talking. If you increase the people attending the meeting, the issue will only get worsened.

Solution? It’s simple! Just provide every member with a card and a pen and tell them to write down their ideas. Do brain-writing! After brain-writing gets over, tape all the papers with ideas on a board and let everyone vote for what they think would succeed and what won’t.

Brain-writing is different from brainstorming which is “oral generation” of ideas. Brain-writing is the “written generation” of ideas. Why does it help? There’s no interruption or dominance from another person while someone writes. It’s just him, a paper and a pen and his ideas.

Another way of collecting ideas from your employees is organizing a meet similar to teach-meet.

2. Teachmeet

Teachmeet is an informal get-together of teachers where they exchange ideas on how technology can do wonders according to them. Now replacing the teachers with R&D professionals or your company’s employees here, you’ll have various ideas coming out from numerous imaginations where thoughts are not limited to one team but everyone’s mind is involved and a hunt for the solution is there.

But, how is this meeting different from the generic on-going ones?

A homework assignment is given to all the employees beforehand. All the employees are told to pen down their ideas before coming to the meeting and told to talk about their solution in a systematic order. Everyone should be involved and given the stand to talk in this discussion. This brings even those people to share ideas who have been quieter for so long.


B.) Idea Generation Techniques

1. Starbursting

Star Bursting is one such technique that can help you achieve the second goal. Starbursting is a well-ordered way of generating questions about your product so as to have better decision making and knowing all the aspects related to the product.

Ever introduced your product or idea to a friend? If yes, getting loaded with dozens of questions regarding that idea is perceptible. The most common questions start with – what is the product about? How much would it cost the consumer? Where can people get it from?  Or when is it getting out in the market?

Answering such questions can provide you a clearer sight of where the product is heading or you can say, whenever you come up with an idea it’s important to ask yourself these questions so as to have a systematic approach. Starbursting helps you do this.

Star-bursting in three simple steps:

  1. Draw a six-pointed star on a large sheet of paper.
  2. Write the title of your idea at the center of the star and “Who”, “What”, “Why”,” Where”, “When”, and “How” at all the six tips.
  3. Summon as many questions as you can starting with these six words and write them in a way of radiating them out of the star. Don’t try to answer these.


SCAMPER is a brainstorming technique devised by combining 7 thinking prompts to generate ideas in order to improve a product or service. We have written a 1200 words long article on the technique. You can read it here: SCAMPER

3. General Morphological Analysis

General Morphological Analysis (GMA) is a famous idea generation technique devised by an astrophysicist Fried Zwicky. It’s a widely popular technique to solve wicked problems. We have written an article describing how to use GMA. You can read it here: General Morphological Analysis

C.) Strategies to Kill Idea Sharing Barriers of Employees and Increase Participation

Build an Effective Idea Sharing System

Apart from the techniques to increase your staff involvement and to increase the horizons of imagination for idea generation, an effective idea sharing system, according to Daniel Fleming, needs to be there in order get the maximum out of it.

Below are few tips that can help in the pursuit:

  • Start with little contributions: Let the employees generate small ideas first that can be implemented easily as compared to the large ones which require more resources just for the experimentation part.
  • Focus more on the process and less on the results: Check overall impact of the process and the individual ideas. Calculate the individual involvement and degree of involvement. At last, calculate the tenure it’ll take to evaluate and implement the ideas. Don’t forget, the basic purpose of this program is engaging staff in idea generation.

Calculations must be done keeping the following measures into consideration:

Ø   100% participation

Ø   12 ideas per employee per year/half year/quarter

Ø    48 hours to evaluate

Ø    5 days to implement

The above metrics are given to give you an idea. Feel free to tweak them as per your team/project requirement.

How to kill obstacles keeping your employees hesitant from sharing

All of us carry at least a portion of expertise in our domain due to the years we’ve spent working. Still, that portion becomes futile due to below-mentioned pain points:

  • Fear of rejection: One of the biggest limiting factors in knowledge sharing. This can be removed by showing interest in ideas that are shared by people who do share.
  • Me-Syndrome: This obstacle arouses with self-obsession when someone is totally engrossed in itself. Such people are insecure about losing the respect they have and somehow relate this to the fear of rejection. To get rid of this, start involving them in brainstorming sessions where they are forced to speak over an issue.
  • Magnifying one’s negatives: Another obstacle that hinders knowledge sharing is putting the entire light on one’s negatives and ultimately generating a poor self-image. Applauding on their strengths can work wonders with such folks. Due to lack of self-confidence, your applaud might be the one thing that kept them from coming up.

Know your team. Identify which out of these is their botheration. Help them solve it.

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