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Ideas from Employees

You may have worked for a company where the suggestion box may have well been a shredder. However, smart companies know, the best ideas may come from employees – the people who know your product literally inside-and-out. It is a smart move to ask for… and reward good ideas from your workforce.

Ford taps employees for ideas
Amid declining sales, automaker is seeking innovation

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co., stepping up efforts to boost innovation and revamp its stodgy top-down culture, has begun mailing a 12-page brochure — including a detachable, postage-paid response card — to every Ford employee and dealership in North America.

The brochures, to arrive this week at employees’ homes, are intended to spark a wave of innovative ideas to add to the more than 1,000 that salaried employees have submitted since November via an internal Web site.

Hopefully this is a long-term strategy for Ford, versus a one-time brain squeeze. A program such as this takes time to become a part of the company’s culture – a way of doing business.

In fact, many employees may not know what to do with feedback cards. If Ford has never seemed to care about employee feedback in the past – folks aren’t going to believe the company cares about their input now. Although saving your own job is a motivator.

Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford has asked for a report on some of the best ideas so far, which he might discuss with top executives as early as Monday, the day the company announces a restructuring.

While keeping mum on details of the restructuring, Ford executives are urging journalists not to portray it simply as a cost-cutting plan, but rather as a sweeping effort to energize the company around building bold, new products and boosting sales — even as auto-building capacity shrinks to reflect Ford’s smaller share of the U.S. market.

Ford’s U.S. sales have dropped from more than 4 million vehicles in 2000 to 2.95 million last year.
“I need you to challenge the status quo,” Bill Ford wrote in a message to employees and dealers in the 12-page brochure. “I need your input so we can be first again in delivering innovative products to our customers.”

The last part of this last paragraph is the biggest challenge Ford is going to face… If they’ve been a bunch of know-it-alls at the top… it may not appear genuine…

Ford’s culture still reflects the influences of the famed “Whiz Kids,” 10 former World War II military officers whom then-CEO Henry Ford II recruited in 1946. The Whiz Kids — including Robert McNamara, who later became Ford president and U.S. defense secretary — were credited with bringing discipline and financial controls to Ford but also were blamed for creating an elitist, authoritarian top-management group.

Some companies get squirmish about this idea…

Does this mean if we implement an idea submitted by an employee they’re going to sue us to be compensated? Sue? No. Compensated? Yes!

Your company limits its innovative potential if you’re leaving front-line employees off of your ‘sources of great ideas’ because you fear them. And you SHOULD compensate employees for their contribution. If they come up with a million-dollar idea, reward them for it! It doesn’t have to be a million dollars. Recognition can be more than monetary. And you’ll quickly start a chain reaction where others will want to be recognized for their input to the latest and greatest idea.

My own two-cents… Ask your customers. Send a 12-page brochure to those with Ford keys on their keyrings.

Source: Detroit Free Press

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