I don’t know about you, but I come up with a new idea every day. However, ideas without execution are merely thoughts in one’s own head.

The writer Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:

“Ideas must work through the brains and arms of men, or they are no better than dreams.”

Ideas are key to keeping a company innovating and moving ahead. After all, you can’t have a great anything without having had a great idea as a precursor.

As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we must find ways to encourage idea generation and sharing. Adam Bryant’s latest book, Quick And Nimble, addresses this rather poignantly.

Adam interviewed several CEOs about idea generation and why it’s important to have a culture of free-flowing ideas. The risk of not instilling such a culture is that it can lead to companies becoming cynical—which, says Kathy Savitt, the former CEO of the e-commerce site Lockerz, “can then lead to politics, which can create a cancer that can topple even the greatest companies.”

Creating a culture in which there are no titles around ideas

Savitt explains why it’s dangerous to have a culture where a team member has an idea, yet doesn’t feel they are able to share it openly: “The idea festers, problems continue to mount, [and] no one listens,” she says. Savitt talked about how this dynamic is “a recipe for cynicism.”

Sharing ideas is extremely important to the growth of a company. A good leader knows that ideas can come from anywhere, but if you don’t have a culture where everyone is not only encouraged to share ideas, but also rewarded for their ideas, you can end up fostering a cynical culture with unhappy employees.

Florida State University researchers did a study about why people leave a company, and found that people “don’t quit their job, they quit their bosses.” In this study, 31 percent of respondents reported that their supervisor gave them the “silent treatment” in the past year. This is a surefire way to lose quality talent in your organization.

Steve Stoute

Steve Stoute, CEO and founder of Translation. Image via.

Steve Stoute is the CEO and founder of the brand development and marketing firm Translation, the author of the book The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy, and chairman of Carol’s Daughter, a beauty products company.

In Adam’s book, Stoute talks about how “ideas can come from anywhere,” and how at Carol’s Daughter, “there are no titles around ideas.” Stoute went on to say that if you create a culture where you have bureaucracy around an idea, it will lead to “the death of an organization.”

Tying your values to idea sharing

You can’t create a healthy culture just from hanging company values on a wall, but you most certainly can and should motivate and inspire people to live up to those values and openly share how they feel about them.

Adam interviewed Lars Björk, the CEO of the software firm QlikTech, about how his company rewards people who best model their company’s five core values:

  1. Challenge: Always challenge the conventional. If you want to win, you have to find your own way to the top. Complacency leads to death.
  2. Move Fast: It’s okay to make mistakes, just don’t make the same mistakes—learn from them.
  3. Be Open and Straightforward: Hear everyone out. Somebody may have something brilliant to say, and be open if you think something is wrong.
  4. Teamwork for Results: This is about the power of the team. Reach out and speak to everyone in the organization. You never know what you might learn.
  5. Take Responsibility: Give the authority to be a part of a lot more than the team member’s position. Put into the company’s DNA the idea of being cost-conscious and having good judgement.

At the end of each year, QlikTech hosts a company summit and gives out rewards for each of these five categories. Employees nominate their peers (an individual or a team can be nominated) in each category, and the winners become “value ambassadors” for the following year.

More Great Culture and Innovation Tips

So how will you set up a culture in your business that allows for free-flowing ideas? Please let us know, as we are always seeking ways to learn from others and improve our own culture.

If you’d like some additional inspiration on this topic, join us for the global Quick And Nimble book club with bestselling author Adam Bryant.

Read along and watch our April 2014 webinar here.

Culture Tip of the Week from Adam:

Adam Bryant, author of Quick and Nimble

“Great ideas can come from anywhere. There are no titles around an idea.” – @SteveStoute #QuickAndNimble https://bit.ly/AdamBryant

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Caroline Cummings
Caroline Cummings

Caroline is a two-time technology entrepreneur. She's co-founded and held the CEO position for two internet companies, OsoEco (social bookmarking/shopping site) and RealLead (mobile marketing for the real estate industry). Follow Caroline on Google+.