In early May, during one of his weekly radio addresses to the nation,
President Obama proposed setting up a process in which federal
government workers could submit what he called "bottom-up ideas" to
make your government more efficient and effective.
words, as the Wall Street Journal described it, the president would
like to set up perhaps the largest suggestion box in history.
Originally, suggestion boxes were actual, physical boxes, into which
employees were encouraged to drop their ideas - even anonymously - on
how operations might be improved. Thousands of companies and
government agencies expanded the idea, using e-mail. Sometimes,
workers were rewarded with cash bonuses or other prizes for ideas that
increased profits or morale.
Some retail companies adopted
the concept and have put out suggestion boxes for their customers. An
online site called SuggestionBox.com even takes in suggestions for
companies, forwards them and tracks responses. But the idea doesn't
seem as popular in government and corporate life anymore.
That's because some companies and agencies found that people ignore
them, especially if there's no evidence that anyone acts on employees'
ideas. Disgruntled or malicious staff members sometimes stuffed the
boxes with scrap or offensive personal criticisms. Others tossed in
frivolous ideas, just hoping for a reward. And many managers concluded
that suggestion boxes are too impersonal. They found that face-to-face
meetings called brainstorming sessions, in which ideas are solicited
and discussed, are more effective.
Some companies and
agencies never tried suggestion boxes because they didn't want the
hassle of dealing with a flood of suggestions or, in some cases,
because they weren't particularly interested in what the average
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.