Time time to get rid of your suggestion box!

Andrea Díaz Navarro
3 min readMay 21, 2021


You’ve seen these boxes everywhere, but… how many times have they really considered your requests?

Definitely suggestion boxes are a great way to gather anonymous feedback, critics, and even ideas. There is a clear necessity to find an alternative to somehow hear what your employees want to say. Deficiencies have been present on this outdated method baking away valuable input from employees, customers, and partners. Without going around the topic, here are some concrete reasons why they fail:

  • Lack of follow-up: If employees feel you’re not going to seriously consider or implement their ideas, they are unlikely to participate actively. Employees aren’t going to share improvement ideas, if they don’t know what happens to them.
  • No recognition and reward: Employee recognition doesn’t need to be anything big or fancy. A pat on the back or a high five is enough to encourage the participation.
  • Too hard to submit ideas: People are busy and stop working to write down a critic on a slip of paper is useless if they won’t be followed. At the end of the day, it might turn into a pointless activity.
  • Doesn’t promote engagement: If there is no recognition and improvement’s visibility, employees could tend to decrease their participation on continuous improvement ideas.

What to do instead?

Personally, one of the most heart breaking situations is to have an environment where people are lazy or not encouraged about sharing ideas. I firmly think that companies should be aware of creating spaces to develop creativity and let their people be part of the change and growth.

“Suggestion-box type systems, even in their electronic manifestations, rarely get more than one idea per person per year.” (AlAn G. Robinson)

Companies may have a difficult time creating a lean improvement culture and could be ignoring as much as 80% of its improvement potential. This is so sad!

As an alternative solution, consider changing the process to embrace a true Kaizen approach.

  • You can begin by replacing the centralized approval process with a centralized coaching system. The objective of this transition is to facilitate the execution of ideas in an agile way involving the whole team.
  • Empower frontline employees to execute their own experiments and lower the bar. Instead of asking for big, innovative ideas, ask for any sort of ideas — especially small incremental improvements! This will make the implementation easier to be reached in a shorter term.

Employees should feel empowered to improve everywhere, every day. Lean culture could be the answer to understand different tools to ease the continuous improvement. Making your people part of the process could definitely be the catalyst to make your business grow! Say bye bye to suggestion boxes and open the space for more effective alternatives to hear your people!

[1] https://www.instituto-twi.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/the-role-of-front-line-ideas-in-lean-performance-improvement.pdf
[2] https://www.braineet.com/blog/suggestion-box/