Big Ideas Come to Those Who Ask Making it easy for your employees to offer suggestions could lead to big improvements to your product and company.

By David Hassell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Here's a riddle: what happens when you're building a product to help generate ideas, but you need that product to already exist to help you generate ideas in order to build the best product possible?

Did that hurt your brain a little? It hurt ours too. Welcome to the early days at 15Five.

With the idea of creating a new, streamlined and open employee feedback platform -- one that takes 15 minutes to write and five minutes to read -- we worked swiftly to create a minimal viable product. The goal was to prove our concept and to see if there was a market for our idea.

The funny part is, the outside validation was exhilarating (to say the least), but our own experience with the product was a game changer. We now had the tool we originally needed to source the ideas that would make our product even better.

With the capability to reach all corners of our team on a weekly basis, here's how we've woven "thinking big" into the tapestry of our entire culture.

You don't know unless you ask. That's why we make asking a part of our weekly to-dos. With that as the premise of our product, we had no excuse now within our own team not to.

Related: What Really Fosters Innovation (Infographic)

In the questions we ask our team at 15Five, we always include one in particular that helps us unearth the innovation hiding in our midst: What's one idea you have to improve your role or the company? This question encompasses what we should start doing, stop doing and also reveals what we should continue doing.

The soil matters as much as the seed. If ideas are the seeds that we plant, we must be sure these seeds have fertile and healthy soil to grow and bear the fruits we envision.

So when we asked how would you improve the company, the feedback naturally generated ideas for enhancing the product in order to help ideas flourish faster. In a bold move, we rebuilt the platform from scratch and this time used a more flexible coding language than our original version.

Deciding to do so meant that we would have a more agile and iterative-friendly foundation. This would help our team feel better supported in their thinking process as we could now watch more ideas come to life -- without technological friction.

The quarterly big idea summit. We host a quarterly, company-wide strategy retreat and bring along every banked idea from our weekly reports. The ideas are all laid out on a table and debated, one by one. And here's the important part: we measure all ideas against a thematic goal such as traffic, efficiency or revenue. Although this might seem tedious, we believe our process is what strengthens creative thinking in our company culture.

Related: 3 Ways Your Network Can Help You Flex Your Innovation Muscle

This takes clarity and discipline, but it's crucial to pushing the best ideas to the top of the pile. We ask ourselves, does this idea help us achieve this goal? Does it align with our core values as a company? When the answer is unanimously yes, we set forth to turn that idea into reality, mapping out the steps and resources that it will require.

All unused ideas return to the bank. To nurture innovation, people need to feel safe about sharing and no idea should ever be tossed or dismissed. Who knows when an old idea will ripen?

Size doesn't matter. Of course, big ideas tend to get all the glory, but it's surprising how many small ideas and details can add up to truly change the game.

Take for example a recent new feature of 15Five. A member of our customer success team noticed there was no way to easily notify a colleague when they were mentioned in a report. When asked how he would improve the company, he shared his idea of adding an "@mention" feature to the platform to help foster conversation and collaboration.

Then he went to Europe for a quick trip. By the time he came back, he noticed the developers had started playing around with his idea and a "mention" feature was being added to the platform.

All this came from asking a question, listening to a response, creating a foundation to implement ideas quickly and reinforcing a culture of collective problem-solving. When small ideas are executed, it helps pave the way for big ideas.

I suggest you open that valve, and watch the innovation flow.

Related: 4 Innovators, 4 Ways to Get Inspired

Wavy Line
David Hassell

CEO and Founder of 15Five

David Hassell is the founder and CEO of 15Five, a leading employee engagement solution that helps create high performing teams by combining pulse surveys, weekly check-ins, peer recognition, and people analytics all in one platform. 

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