The Wall Street Journal:

Game-changing ideas may abound at your workplace — in the minds of your employees. The hard part is figuring out how to tap into those ideas and make creativity part of the daily routine.

But regularly harnessing your staff’s brainpower can provide an important edge to small businesses competing against larger competitors with bigger budgets and deeper resources.

1. Awards and Recognition

Allison De Meulder wanted to hear new ideas from employees at her online custom-invitation store. Her staff of 24 rarely made suggestions, but she had a feeling they had more to offer than they were letting on. “People don’t always feel comfortable coming into my office,” she says.

Ms. De Meulder, who is president of Tampa, Fla.-based Invitation Consultants Inc., bought a white mailbox and installed it in a central spot in the office.

Employees are encouraged to drop in new ideas and lift the red mailbox flag. Once a quarter, Ms. De Meulder and her husband, Olivier De Meulder, the company’s vice president, select a winner from as many as 30 ideas. They host a catered lunch and read the top three aloud. The winner is awarded $500 cash and a sculpture resembling a glass-encased electric-blue light bulb.

“I really wanted to do something to motivate people,” Ms. De Meulder says. “People are motivated by recognition.”

2. Required Suggestions

3. Online Document Sharing

Photo by Invitation Consultants Inc..

Comments are closed.