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Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution Is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations Paperback – January 9, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Firms that take ideas seriously take their employees’ thinking seriously, and employees who think are employees who are alive. Thus argue Robinson and Schroeder, management academics and corporate creativity consultants. Ideas are the life force of corporations, they say, and managers who recognize this can increase profits and avoid budget cuts and layoffs. Kill employee ideas and what you have is a carcass of a company, a firm mired in bureaucracy and rote processes with a staff of dulled zombies. But ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. The key to a successful company, argue Robinson and Schroeder, is encouraging a corporate culture that swiftly recognizes and implements improvements. With that in mind, the authors focus on ideas as the catalyst of corporate change rather than the end itself. This book is thoroughly researched, with convincing facts and data (Toyota’s success, they say, is the result of an idea culture that takes one million ideas per year from its employees). It also lays out a blueprint for a corporate idea program from inspiration to implementation, along with some unexpected caveats (e.g., rewarding ideas tends to stifle them as people focus on the award rather than on the idea, and small ideas—leading to continuous, incremental improvement—are more valuable than large ones). For any manager interested in jolting a moribund workforce out of complacency, this is a clever, pragmatic guide to awakening both the front line and the bottom line.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Ever since Frederick Taylor advocated that it was management's job to "think" and the worker's job to "do," this perspective has been the basis for the policies, structures, and operating practices of most business organizations. Although this division between thinking and doing may have worked 100 years ago, it is severely limiting in today's environment, where it is the front-line worker who is in the best position to notice problems and suggest ideas. In example after example, the authors show how companies that encourage and implement the ideas of the entire workforce are the ones that come up with the most innovative and successful strategies. Contrary to past thinking on the subject, they make it clear that monetary rewards are not the best way to elicit ideas, and that emphasis on small ideas can be a more effective strategy than shooting for a "home run." The methods described show how to create an environment that encourages ideas, help employees develop knowledge and improve their problem-solving skills, and properly manage the ideas that are generated, including their larger implications. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2 Reprint edition (January 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576753743
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576753743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I manage people and my greatest frustration is having smart people working for me, the best tools, a great product and still getting beaten in the marketplace by companies with a more creative approach. Leveraging human capital is the difference between a good company (or organization) and a great one. Motivating people to come to work everyday is one thing. I need them to think creatively! Standing in front of their desk screaming "THINK CREATIVELY!" doesn't seem to work very well. The authors address this issue blissfully avoiding Covey-esque motivational platitudes and MBAspeak about 'Synergies' found in most management books. The book is written with a practitioner in mind and avoids 'data' and teaches with real life examples. A lot of them! A great read for any leader trying to unleash potential in their organization or even looking for ideas themselves.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The theme of employee suggestions is not new. But this book provides answers and strong motivation to try out again. The things that I learned from reading the book are:

1) Why rewards based on value of saving does not work.

2) A series of small ideas adds up to one Big one.

3) Even big ideas needs small ideas to get them working right.

4) Small ideas are not easily copied.

5) A properly implemented idea system improve management - employee relations

6) Successfully implemented ideas system is the key to competitive advantage and sustainable long term performance.

Please read the book for the details. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
How did Toyota rise from being an obscure automaker to being "Number Three" in "The Big Three?" How did Toyota come to dominate the J.D. Powers Consumer Satisfaction Survey? And why is it Toyota has not laid off a single worker since 1950? Ideas. Toyota uses hundreds more ideas per worker than do its American counterparts.

While Toyota is a stunning example of how one company gets and uses employee ideas, this book isn't about Toyota. It's about liberating people and transforming organizations through ideas. Not necessarily big ideas, but ideas that come from every person in the organization and add up to big things.

The typical organization is an idea desert. This well-researched book shows you, through case histories and clear explanations, how any organization can transform that desert into a lush land that produces bumper crops.

One key is tapping into the vast resource of employees who are closest to the work. Managers have a perspective that is excellent for addressing the larger picture. But to have that perspective, managers are necessarily removed from being close to the work. Thus, they simply are not in a position to see how to improve the work.

Another important concept that many managers fail to put to use is that of massively parallel eyes, ears, and brains. Joseph Antonini taught us that ignoring these inputs is very dangerous--he nearly ruined K-Mart by assuming his ideas were the only ones that really mattered.

We have to remember that employees are often leaders and thinkers outside of work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While this book is a few years old the advice it gives is priceless. It amazes me that more companies do not make use of a suggestion program. Following the recommendations the authors put forward it would be relatively easy and cost effective to introduce such a program. The book is clearly written by individuals who are well versed in the subject with a great deal of experience.

The book includes examples of successful suggestions programs implemented at various companies, the ways in which management encourages and rewards ideas, and many actual improvement suggestions ranging from the obvious & easy to the ingenious & complex. One I found to be particularly interesting was from a large nursery that had issues when it rained with the manure in the soil becoming an irritant for the workers. One such worker suggested putting a tarp over the piles of soil when it rained. This was considered a "moral boosting" suggestion, but as it turned out the wet soil was actually causing them to have almost 60% lower plant yields due to the inconsistent way the soil dried. After implementing the tarp suggestion the company saved a lot of time and money. The book also includes recommended tactics to counteract some of the cultural barriers that are often encountered when trying to begin such a program. I found the "Gorilla Tactics - actions you can take today without the boss's permission" at the end of each chapter quite intriguing.

I only have one criticism of this book; it's a bit wordy.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book about transformation and the leadership it takes to achieve it. The obvious premise of this book is that "ideas" can transform an average company into a great one, or a struggling organization into a competitive success. The power to achieve this is in simple everyday ideas from the people who really know where the problems exist, the front line workers. Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder have written a book that has its origins in the 1980's. Schroeder had discovered that the "employees of distressed companies could often identify and solve critical problems which management had either missed or ignored". Around the same time, Robinson was studying Japanese organizations and discovering how small ideas could lead to high employee involvement and superior performance. This book is a result of their research that led them into 150 different organizations in seventeen countries representing a diverse variety of industries.

Ideas Are Free is a book that discusses how everyday common-sense ideas can make a powerful difference in any organization! Most American organizational cultures constantly search for the "big" revolutionary ideas that often are quickly duplicated by the competition. But it is the ongoing benefits derived from smaller innovations that can really make a huge difference. These small ideas tend to remain proprietary within the organization that utilizes them. Sadly, most organizations seem to ignore this opportunity and are better at suppressing ideas instead of promoting them!

Ideas Are Free correctly focuses on the fact that the best ideas come from people who do the work and see many things the manager doesn't. Managers are good at squandering the most significant resource that organizations possess: employee ideas.
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