* WSJ op-ed: Obama’s Federal Suggestion Box by Brian Carney, a member of the Journal’s editorial board, and Isaac Getz, a professor at the ESCP Europe School of Management in Paris, France. They are the co-authors of “Freedom, Inc.,” due out in October. An excerpt:
The president’s intention is admirable, and he’s right to say that “Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers — not just management.” But American workers also know that even in the private sector, management often does little to implement their ideas. If the president really wants to take government workers’ ideas seriously, he should know that there’s a lot more to it than setting up an email address and telling workers to fire away.
There are good reasons the suggestion boxes at most companies collect more chewed-up gum and recommendations to “fire my boss” than valuable ideas. Workers know that the bureaucracy will strangle even good ideas with “suggestion-review committees” and rules on who is eligible to offer ideas, what kind of ideas will be considered, and how to decide what constitutes a “good” idea.
It doesn’t have to be this way: Toyota’s plants in Georgetown, Ky., and Fremont, Calif., benefit from a continuous flow of their employees’ ideas. But copying this model isn’t easy: GM co-owns the NUMMI plant in Fremont and has tried to emulate its culture — with little success, as the administration is well-aware.
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