September 20, 2014

After Countless Suggestions, It’s Terrible

focus groups business cartoon

I was reading an interview recently with the head of a company who said something about their recent success being the result of countless suggestions from employees.

First off, I was surprised that this company not only was interested in employee ideas, but actually asked for them.

Sounds great right?

Then I started thinking back on some of my past co-workers and ideas they might have floated if they’d been asked. Add in a few focus groups and consultants and this cartoon just sort of presents itself.

4 Comments ▼

Mark Anderson


Mark Anderson Mark Anderson's cartoons appear in publications including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review. His business cartoons are available for licensing at his website, Andertoons.com.

4 Reactions

  1. Why is this so funny? Because it’s true. I’ve heard a joke in the web design business where they call brand new websites that are terrible “ugly by request”.

  2. Denise Dougherty

    Actually, I disagree. At one time, I held a job at a large organization and one of my responsibilities was to administer the employee suggestion process. While the larger percentage of suggestions were rejected for varied reasons, a surprising number were accepted and adapted. Accepted ideas were rewarded a fact that, I’m certain, spurred msny to submit with only the reward in mind. Once, though, during my tenure an employee idea was submitted that was excellent but it was rejected. Why? Ultimately, although it would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and created a more efficient process were it implemented, it would have eliminated a score of jobs. To my mind, it was rejected for that overriding reason. What I learned from that most interesting work experience is that employees often have sensible and imaginative suggestions but they don’t know how to think them through so as to make them practical for implimentation. That was the part of my job I liked best – discussing how to think the idea through to the next logical step.

    Although I didn’t find your cartoon amusing, it did bring back that memory. For that, I’m grateful.

    DD@Phila

    • Hi Denise,

      Your comment made me think about employee suggestions. I have had stellar experiences, and awful experiences. When I sat here mulling over your words, I realized that my own experience, good and bad, has varied depending on the purpose and context of suggestions.

      I have seen employees come up with great ideas for new processes, efficiency improvements, money-saving techniques, and so on. Our team here at Small Business Trends has made some excellent suggestions, and I for one would never have thought of them. I’m grateful for them.

      But, I learned the hard way in my corporate life never to, for instance, hold a naming contest with input from employees (or a group of company executives, for that matter), or try to use groupthink to design a logo. As a colleague of mine once said, “naming suggestions are good for puppies, not for naming products or businesses.” Because what you get in that context is not a suggestion based on a great idea, but a mishmash based on differing visions for the end goal, differing standards of what appeals, and so on.

      – Anita

  3. It’s a fine line between successful collaborations and group think disasters!

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