This article is a combination of an interview and review featuring Jag Randhawa and his book The Bright Idea Box
– Turning Employees Into Idea Hunters-
The Bright Idea Box is a program to drive employee engagement and innovation. The main message of this step-by-step book is how to create employee engagement. A company should be people centered and people focused. It makes a plea for the shift from human resources to human assets. Employees know the business processes, which makes them a valuable source of ideas to improve the company operations, increase productivity, and align products with customer’s desires. They are the company’s assets that are able to enhance innovation through scouting opportunities to improve. Jag’s definition of innovation is:
Innovation = Invention + Execution + Adoption
Jag is focused on sustained innovation: adding value to the existing portfolio. He several times stresses the importance of adding value to the existing products and services. Improvements can be made in any field; it’s about a clever combination, adding value in new ways and enhancing the experience. The underlying reason of this program is: ´engaged employees are more productive, profitable, and safer: create stronger customer relationships, and stay longer with their companies (p.31).´ It all started with the financial crisis asking for new ways of working and the outcome of a Gallup study from on disengagement. In 2012, a total of 57% employees felt unengaged at work. A big loss. Jag’s personal motivation is his desire to do something greater and contributing to more happy employers is a step in this process. Above the benefit for the employer is described.
But what’s in it for the employee? Due to a focus on employee engagement intra-organizational opportunities will arise. This leads to personal development. Feeling empowered and actively contributing to the company’s mission can be seen as a career investment. Additionally, being valued for your contributions to make the company successful can make one proud. But the main message is about the social value at large: contributing to something bigger. The question the employee should ask; am I happy? Happiness is often related to opportunities, explains Jag. “Employee engagement creates less frustration; frustrations are inevitable, but you have to see it as an opportunity to work on personal development goal and get the possibility within the company to actively make the change.”
Who should read it? The book addresses the following question: ´How can an employer inspire his or her team to greatness while continuing to serve the customer? ´ The intended audience is leaders at established organization and entrepreneurs that are just starting out. Whenever there is an employee-employer relationship, there is an opportunity for employee engagement. It applies to both target audiences, because having the ambition to grow one should start thinking about whoever to hire from day one. The key is to assure that employees will be as engaged and motivated as you. So, are you recruiting new bright minds? It´s worth asking Jeff Bezos´s question (CEO of Amazon) ´give an example of innovative work you´ve done in your live.´ And staying with Jeff Bezos, he recently implemented at Amazon the ‘pay to quit’ arrangement to stimulate employee to really think about what they want and whether they are motivated and loyal.
Jag told me that so far The Bright Idea Box program has been most successful in software development companies and technology based firms. The reason is that the adoption rate is higher due to already having the craftsman skills to make prototypes in-house. When explaining his program, he often refers to bottom up innovation. What does he understand with this? “Top-down innovation is vision-driven and initiated by management, while bottom-up innovation is idea-driven and initiated by employees. (p.84)” So before reading further. Take the time to answer Jag’s question: ´What programs does your company currently use to engage employees?´
The first part of the book assures a common understanding on innovation. In the second part he explains his program, based on the MASTER stepping stones. The general notion in the book is to keep it down-to-earth: all the ideas should benefit the day-to-day activities. That´s were the employee relates too and will personally receive the most impact and recognition. Another supporting vehicle is his NABC rule. An idea must cover Needs, Approach, Benefits (per costs) and Competition. Practical advice is given on various platforms, dashboards and Idea-capturing tools to facilitate the process. But most important is to motivate the employees. You can’t do is alone. In the words of Teaming-Up co-founder John Maxwell: ´An idea is worthless unless you use it.´ To really achieve heights, look at Edison: a genius and equally important a master collaborator.
The book simplifies the process of idea generation. It is of value to those for who the concept of employee engagement and bottom up innovation are new. It is a good start to get acquainted with the possibilities in this management area. But note that it won’t give you a hosanna miracle in a few months. You will have gain on the longer term, when the whole organization breaths the vision of employee engagement and management is actively supporting it. The story is supported by some case studies and personal experience from Jag. Especially the some small case studies provide a nice insight on how large companies gave their twist to employee engagement and stimulating innovation. Although at the end of the book, it might be a nice starting point.
In the book Jag positions himself as a mentor, he teaches you along the way by telling what he will teach you, teach it, ask you to apply it and tell what you just have learned. The teaching principle is repetition, to make sure the message is understood and can be applied. Hence, when finishing the book, the reader can see the benefit of a humanitarian approach to business putting employee engagement, empowerment and respect for employee input central.
You can find more information at The Bright Idea Box website. Want to get inspired with what kind of tools you could use? The Board of Innovation made a nice presentation on how any company can innovate like a startup. Together with ‘The Bright Idea Box’ you will have your toolbox packed.
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