In smaller businesses, it is better to adopt and open door policy so that your employees know that you are always there and available to listen to their ideas. Communicate this open door approach to your employees and make them feel comfortable and confident enough to come to you. Remember to take any criticism as opportunity for development and give praise and feedback to employees who have helped your business.
In a larger business, it may not necessarily be as easy to adopt this approach because before long, you will be finding the majority of your day is spent listening to your employees’ ideas. Instead, implement a ‘Bright Ideas’ scheme, whereby you actively encourage ideas from your workforce. Set up an e-mail account within your business and have employees send over their suggestions. Any idea that you deem to have helped your business should be rewarded, whether this is with a certificate or a monetary incentive (I think we all know which your employees would favour!).
If you believe your business would benefit from more structured and regular feedback/ideas, then you should consider setting up monthly forums to bring together feedback from all your departments. Nominate a person that will be responsible for collating together the ideas from their department (this tends to be a member of the management team) and have them set aside time to hear these ideas. In the forum, open up the floor to each department and listen to their ideas and follow up any useful suggestions.
There is opportunity to find your next big idea from someone not actually in your workforce. An interview situation lends itself perfectly to finding a good idea. With an open exchange of questions and answers, you are able to ask an interviewee where they see a weakness in the company and how they will be able to fill it. Also, if you are interviewing someone that may currently work for a competitor, find out what they can bring from their previous employment that can help your business.
It is important to listen to your employees. After all, they do their job day in-day out and can see opportunities for development emerging. Remember, it only takes one great idea to make you a million.