Who knows the most about your business problems? Your CEO? Your financial officer? Your management team?

Think again.

Collectively, your employees know the most about your business challenges. That includes everyone from the interns that are just getting to know your business processes, to your customer service team handling customer enquiries, and everyone in-between.

For businesses to maintain momentum and keep their employees engaged, they need to involve everyone in the process of identifying, prioritizing and solving challenges. They need to democratize discovery.

By engaging employees in discovery, businesses can find better, more effective solutions to their problems and build a stronger, more innovative culture along the way. This blog will show you four steps to enable your employees to find and solve business problems, putting the power of discovery in everyone's hands.

Step 1: Engage employees in discovery

This step sounds pretty simple, right? The unfortunate truth is that many organizations fail to actively engage employees in the discovery process, instead identifying problems and driving solutions from the top down. To democratize discovery, organizations should empower employees of all levels with frequent opportunities to surface and explore the challenges and opportunities that arise in their day-to-day work, making everyone an integral part of the discovery process.

Engaging employees in discovery can be transformational for your company culture. Employees that are actively engaged in discovery are empowered with a sense of purpose to constantly seek out new ways to improve and add value to the business. This crucial shift boosts employee engagement, leading to positive downstream effects on everything from productivity to retention.

Step 2: Make discovery a priority

As you engage employees in the discovery process, keep in mind that you should also provide the necessary support to make discovery a priority — not just an afterthought or a fleeting opportunity in their role. This includes giving employees the time and resources to conduct thorough discovery, such as:

  • Dedicated time for surfacing and investigating business problems on a regular basis
  • Systems and tools to enable transparent and collaborative discovery and track progress
  • Resources and encouragement on how to systematically explore problems
  • Opportunities to share findings and propose solutions

With the right support structures in place, employees can make discovery an integral part of their roles, adding value by helping your business identify problems worth solving and enabling more effective solutions.

Step 3: Provide structure and freedom

The key to democratizing discovery is finding the right balance between structure and freedom. Too much freedom during the discovery process will lead to solutions that don't align with your company mission and objectives. Too many restrictions will stifle creativity and overly influence outcomes.

While the right balance looks different for everyone, businesses should strive to:

  • Set clear objectives to guide the discovery process
  • Provide transparent criteria for problem exploration and idea validation
  • Enable independence and autonomy for employees to conduct discovery and research solutions

Give your employees the freedom and tools to be their best creative selves. This is frequently called autonomy and mastery. Set clear objectives tied to the organization's objectives and priorities. This is frequently called purpose. Our guide to generating employee buy-in has more information about how to employ autonomy, mastery and purpose to engage employees in problem solving.

As you engage employees in discovery, don't be afraid to ask for feedback on how you can improve your discovery process. Perhaps the workflows or objectives for discovery are unclear, or employees feel like their exploration is inhibited by unnecessary criteria — the best way to find out, is to ask!

Step 4: Reward curiosity

Employees that consistently identify problems worth solving and constructively help solve those problems are critical to your business' success as they are adding value to your organization. Organizations should reward curiosity, encouraging their best explorers — and others — to keep going. Publicly recognizing your employees' discovery efforts can go a long way to promote engagement and, subsequently, improve your bottom line.

When you reward curiosity, remember to recognize the small wins, too. Endless pursuit of your next "million dollar idea" could lead you to overlook the small, impactful victories right at your fingertips. Whether it's a product enhancement or internal innovation, the small wins should be celebrated just as much as the big ones.

Discovery for all

Democratizing discovery may not be top-of-mind for most businesses, but it should be. Employees are a treasure trove of diversity and information about the problems and opportunities your business, customers and teams face every day. By tapping into this resource, organizations can:

  • Boost employee engagement
  • Build a culture of innovation
  • And drive effective solutions from the ground up

To learn more about how you can engage employees and get them to buy-in to discovery, download our guide to Generating Employee Buy-In For Your Innovation Challenges today!


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Topic(s): Problem Solving

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