Making feedback more positive

Feedback indicates that the business values input and

is acting on it. (Photo source here)

We can argue that the exact percentage (90%, 98%, etc.) of ideas received in an idea management system are of no value for a particular initiative; and yes, we can also agree that the X% of ideas aren't necessarily bad ideas but might be suffering from bad timing, latent technologies, strategic fit, etc. But at the end of the day, only a few ideas actually get implemented out of the hundreds or thousands received. It's just the nature of the game in a business world of scarce resources and competing forces.

Providing feedback to participants in a voluntary idea management system is crucial to its success. Everyone wants to know that his or her idea has been seen and considered; and obviously they want to know whether the review team considers it an implementable idea.

As a result, most people believe that sending back "individualized" feedback on the merits of an idea to each author is an imperative. These are often short, system-generated messages, and in some cases the review team might even explain why the individual idea is not moving forward.

Is this a "best practice" methodology, or is it just counterproductive?

Let's look at this from the perspective of the authors contributing ideas. We've agreed that most, if not all, of their ideas will never be implemented. So if we send a message to the authors over and over again thanking them for their "terrible idea" (I'm being dramatic), what do you think the author's impression of the innovation program will be over time?

I can tell you what I would think: "Why bother? Every time I submit an idea, I get a system-generated email telling me my idea is not good enough.” Or “I can't get a hold of the person who rejected my idea to help them understand my idea or make sure they considered this or that.” I would eventually stop contributing all together.

In essence, the one tool that is supposed to foster engagement and give everyone a voice becomes a tool of condemnation (again I'm being dramatic).

There is a better approach. Instead of sending individual messages, send a group response to all interested parties, praising them for their contributions as a collective. Indicate that each individual response was crucial in helping the review team reach a consensus. Also, mention that all ideas will be moved to the Idea Warehouse for possible future consideration. This way, each person feels good about his or her contribution as oppose to getting negative feedback.

You might even throw in some stats (number of ideas received, comments posted, etc.) for good measure too. Follow this with a blurb about the ideas/concepts that will be moving forward and any project-related information that might be known (est. completion by Q1, expected to deliver x value, etc.).

This type of feedback sends a positive message not only to the individual contributors, but also indicates that the business values their input and is acting on it. This fosters continued engagement and excitement in the innovation program!

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