As a business, our #1 competition is not external companies. Our #1 competition is who we were yesterday. We will only survive if we can grow faster, learn faster, and solve challenges faster and better than we did yesterday. If we stagnate, we die.
Large organizations can have tens, hundreds, even thousands of brains running around. Each brain sees different things, comes from different backgrounds, and experiences different lives. A lot of brains generating ideas, all day, all the time.
We need to get those ideas together. We need to make it easier for people’s ideas to reach across the business, smash into other ideas, and make idea babies.
Enter the Suggestion Box
This is not new. Businesses which know that their employees generate great ideas, that the people best equipped to ferret out inefficiencies, problems, and customer-related issues are the people on the front lines dealing with them every day — those organizations have some sort of a Suggestion Box.
Sometimes, though, before someone can come up with a good suggestion, they first need to be asked a good question. I forget who said it, but there’s a saying that goes like “without a good question, a good answer has nowhere to go.” A good suggestion needs a good question.
Consider the following questions:
- “How can we get better at making our customers feel like we’re paying attention to their problems?”
- “How do we make our customers happy?”
Both are valid questions. One of them will likely generate more interesting answers than the other.
We need a Question Box.
The Question Box is not a place to get answers. It’s not a Stack Overflow-type thing. It’s a place to ask questions, and see questions that other people are asking. There are no answers in the Question Box. If someone has an answer, or an idea, they put it in the Suggestion Box. Questions can’t always be answered right away, and someone seeing a two-year-old question for the first time might come up with an innovative suggestion — but not if they see two answers that have a ton of votes and think their suggestion isn’t good enough. So the Question Box is just for questions.
The Question Box is where people with challenges go to ask questions, and then see if they get any good suggestions later on from the Suggestion Box (suggestions could link to the question(s) they attempt to solve). They feed each other. A good question gets a good suggestion, which in turn will generate more challenges and more questions. The better we get at asking questions, the better suggestions we’ll get. It’s a feedback loop for growth that pays dividends out the wazoo.
Find something in the Suggestion Box that’s interesting for your particular challenge or team? Reach out to the author and say “Thanks, I really like this idea. Can we chat about it sometime today or tomorrow? I’d like to pick your brain.” The picked brain could be in a different team or even different location, but the perspective is invaluable to the brain picker, who before then only had one potential solution and it wasn’t great. Now they have two — and potentially three or more if the idea spawns new solutions.
We like to think our problems are unique and nobody’s solved them before now.
Best to ask first.