The NoviEdge Blog



Aug 23, 2023

I Have Great Ideas: Leveraging Employee Brilliance 

In the bustling world of modern work, it often feels like we're shouting into a void. Our minds are buzzing with ideas, solutions, innovations - an untapped goldmine of potential. But somehow, these ideas fail to reach the ears of those who could make them a reality. Our voices become mere whispers, lost in the clamor of corporate noise. 

If ignored, not only might you miss out on “the next big thing” for your company, but worse, you will likely lose talented employees in an increasingly competitive job market. Listening to these whispers is more than just resolving issues; it's about building trust, fostering a sense of belonging, and creating a workplace where everyone feels heard, valued, and respected. 

Today we’ll spotlight two organizations that have leveraged employee brilliance for the good of all: the Oil Spill Recovery Institute and Nestlé. Their stories exemplify the profound impact that listening to employee ideas can have on innovation, productivity, and employee retention. 

An Innovative Oil Cleanup Solution: Thinking Outside the Barrel 

In 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil spill sent shockwaves through Prince William Sound, leaving behind a catastrophic environmental disaster that would linger for decades to come. Oil and water mixed to form a stubborn "chocolate mousse" that clung to Alaska's coastline. In 2007, Scott Pegau, research program manager at the Alaska-based Oil Spill Recovery Institute, decided to try crowd-sourcing company, Innocentive, and offered a $20,000 reward for a solution to getting cold chocolate mousse out of recovery barges.  

While conventional attempts failed, Chemist John Davis, approached the problem with a fresh perspective. Drawing inspiration from the simple act of sipping a slushy, Davis ingeniously applied this concept to the oil spill predicament. “I envisioned the issue as sipping a slushy,” Davis remarked. “You end up needing to swirl the straw around to stir it up. How could we simplify getting that slushy out?” This analogy led Davis to connect his idea with a construction technique involving vibrations, resulting in an innovative solution that defied conventional methods. 

The Oil Spill Recovery Institute’s demonstrates that embracing unconventional perspectives can lead to innovation that transforms industries. It's a lesson that resonates across the business world: thinking outside the box is often the key to tackling complex challenges and fostering breakthroughs. 

A Recipe for Innovation: Cultivating Employee Ideas 

Nestlé, a global giant in the food industry, recognizes the untapped potential residing within its workforce. Rather than relying solely on formal research pipelines, Nestlé actively encourages employees to bring their ideas to the table. The company's culture fosters innovation by empowering individuals to contribute ideas, unleashing a wave of creativity that's reshaping their offerings. 

Through a combination of crowdsourcing and AI-powered platforms, Nestlé taps into the talents of its employees to fuel innovation. This approach mirrors the agility and entrepreneurial spirit of startups, proving that even a major corporation can adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing landscape. This commitment to innovation has earned Nestlé a spot-on Fast Company's list of Best Workplaces for Innovators for four consecutive years. 

Nestlé's model demonstrates the transformational power of acknowledging employee ideas. The company's Open Channel crowdsourcing platform has generated thousands of innovative concepts, leading to 41 initiatives and a remarkable $90 million in revenue attributed to employee-led ideas. By empowering employees to take ownership of their innovative ideas, Nestlé transforms them into entrepreneurs within the company, driving both individual growth and business success. And we can also thank this model for giving us home delivery of warm Toll House cookies and breakfast pizza flavors from DiGiorno! 

The Silent Whispers of Innovation 

These examples underscore a universal truth: your employees hold the keys to innovation. Break down the barriers that stifle their voices and prevent their ideas from being heard. Create a culture where the exchange of ideas is valued, where unconventional perspectives are embraced, and where individuals are empowered to contribute to the company's evolution. 

Remember, great ideas can come from anywhere within your organization. As leaders, it's our responsibility to ensure these ideas are not just heard, but actively nurtured and supported. The potential benefits are immense—transformative breakthroughs, heightened employee engagement, and a competitive edge that propels your business forward. 

So, listen—truly listen—to the silent whispers of innovation within your company. Engage your employees, encourage their creativity, and watch as your organization flourishes in the fertile ground of collaborative brilliance. After all, the next game-changing idea could be just a conversation away. 


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