If you’ve ever dropped an idea into the suggestion box at a store or your workplace, chances are pretty good that nothing ever happened with it. A manager maybe emptied the box at the end of the month, skimmed through the notes, possibly relayed one or two to his manager, then tossed them all into the nearest blue recycling bin.
The time you spent scribbling with a stubby pencil on a quarter-sheet of paper probably went to waste.
Idea flow is a challenge even for companies with a reputation for feeding off employee and customer suggestions. Take Best Buy. The consumer electronics retailer has a culture that encourages employees to speak up when they have thoughts for improving the company. But until recently it hasn’t had a place to collect and organize those suggestions where they wouldn’t get lost in shuffle.
“It was a part of our nature that we weren’t fully taking advantage of,” says Joshua Kahn, manager of emerging media technology for Best Buy.
That started to change a few years ago with the advent of social media, including Blue-Shirt Nation, the in-house network that allows Best Buy employees from around the world to connect with one another.
Now, the company is developing a new tool: a social, virtual, online suggestion box aimed at capturing — and capitalizing on — ideas submitted by its customers and employees from around the world.
The project is called Best Buy IdeaX, and it launched in May 2009. In a few weeks, the company expects to publish an open-source version, allowing anyone else to use the code for free as long as they share improvements with Best Buy and all other users. The release will mark the first time the retailer has ever issued a program as an open-source project. Continue reading »