A problem box is better than any idea box

The employee experience largely consists in removing the friction points in the daily life of the employees and making their different journeys more fluid. For those who don’t know from which angle to look at it, there are some guiding principles to hold on to. But at some point you have to become concrete and know which concrete problems you decide to tackle.

Your employees know their problems

No need to hire armies of consultants or multiply high-level brainstorming sessions to know what to do, what problems to solve, what friction points to remove: your employees know them perfectly since they experience them on a daily basis.

The challenge is not so much, at least initially, to look for ideas as to capture those that exist in the field and are just waiting to come up. And for this we have a tool as old as the world: the idea box!

Whether in its original form (boxes placed in different parts of the company in which employees put papers on which they have written their ideas) or modern (a digital device, an area of the intranet, an app…) the idea box is the ancestor of feedback and ideation gathering devices and despite its rudimentary nature its success is not denied!

Wrongly so. Because it doesn’t work.

The idea box is a bad idea

Having participated a number of times in setting up such devices I can say that they don’t work because they don’t answer the right question.

The question they answer is “what to do“. The question they want an answer to is “what’s wrong?“. And that’s not the same thing at all.

First of all, because not everyone has an idea how to solve a problem. Besides, if they knew how to do it, they might have already solved it themselves.

Then staff members may have ideas about how to solve the problem, but they may be unrealistic or irrelevant.

Also because employees censor themselves for fear that their idea (even anonymous!) is irrelevant or because they are not confident in their ability to come up with good ideas.

Finally, because by proceeding in this way, ideas are most often collected without collecting the problem they are supposed to solve. We can therefore end up with several apparently good ideas to apply to solve one and the same problem and ultimately implement several of them in a totally unproductive way. The employee sometimes thinks that he or she has identified a problem, when in fact he or she is only identifying the manifestations of the problem and not its root causes. Therefore, the idea that he will propose will not act at the right level, will ignore part of the complexity of the subject and will not use all the possible levers.

The idea box therefore poses three problems :

  • A participation deficit because not everyone has ideas
  • A problem of quality because not everyone has the right ideas.
  • A steering problem because it does not allow to identify the real problems.

And it is in this third point that the linchpin of the system lies: identifying the problems, just the problems.

While not everyone has ideas, everyone has problems.

Mixing the collection of problems and ideas, or even neglecting the former in favor of the latter creates a bias in the device.

In the organization, there are some very simple things to solve, which can be addressed very quickly and with a relatively quick impact. So be it.

But there are also some that are inherent to a certain form of complexity and are the fruit of the resulting organizational complication. We only perceive the symptoms and not the primary causes, we “miss” a large part of the problem or even the real problem, we don’t see all the side effects induced by the solution and logically we don’t see all the means to solve the problem either.

These subjects therefore need to be refined before a solution can be envisaged, in particular the search for root causes.

The truth is that while we try to collect ideas or problems, most of what we collect is about a limited number of root causes that are still easier to identify by collecting problems than ideas.

Don’t confuse problem identification and resolution

The employee’s experience, in its “design” part, does not free itself from the good practices of ideation. We are in a two-phase process (identification – resolution) and starting with the second phase is like putting the cart before the horse while deteriorating the quality of the signal received in favor of noise.

Employees will propose ideas that are all the more relevant when they are asked the right question(s) and this question is not “give us ideas to improve your daily life” but “how would you prefer this to be done”. But you still need to know what “it” is.

To find out which problems to solve you must first identify….problems. Then a whole steering and governance system can help to refine them before moving on to the actual “design” of the solution. But that only comes afterwards, and we’ll talk about it in another post.

Meanwhile, just bring up problems, friction points, pebbles in the shoe. Their treatment will come later.

Image : Idea box by fran_kie via Shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
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