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The Boss Doesn't Want to Hear Your Ideas

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's an idea that the Great American Worker is content to plow through a nine-to-five day, keep his or her head down and serve more as an instrument than as an idea generator in the workplace, since the really great ideas come from the executive suites, the so-called "C-Level" offices.

Workers don't see things that way.

Instead, employees today see themselves as "idea people" -- as entrepreneurs in the workplace, ready to step up and handle project initiatives from start to finish (especially on projects stemming from their own ideas and input.)

But those cubicle creators believe corporate America doesn't want to hear their ideas and doesn't see workforce members as entrepreneurs.

New York-based Accenture did a study called Corporate Innovation Is Within Reach: Nurturing and Enabling An Entrepreneurial Culture in which it reports that 52% of U.S. employees say they have brought a good idea to the table inside their companies, but only 20% said there was enough support from management to develop that idea.

In reality, it's a Catch-22 for entrepreneurial-minded staffers, with 77% of employees saying the only way they can get an in idea executed is to prove it works -- but management won't let ideas proceed until they work.

That conundrum keeps a lot of good initiatives in the lockbox, workers believe, with few incentives to fight the system and get good ideas off the ground.

There are other roadblocks, as well, as 36% of U.S. workers say there is a built-in obstacle to staff-generated projects: Management keeps them "too busy" to take the thought time needed to develop a really great idea.

Yet by keeping employee ideas away from the light of day, companies are only holding themselves back.

"Small startups are crucial to our economy, but so is corporate America, and our large companies risk losing their global entrepreneurial lead if they fail to nurture new ideas within their organizations," says Matt Reilly, a managing director at Accenture. "Rewarding only successful ideas developed by an elite group is no longer sufficient. Employees are better connected and more in tune with customers than ever before, so companies must encourage innovation throughout their entire workforces by incentivizing risk taking and rewarding efforts rather than just outcomes."

Maybe a big part of the problem is where those employee-generated ideas are directed.

Accenture says that 85% of all employee-created initiatives are targeted toward internal improvements. That may be too many ideas for management to handle, or the influx of ideas may be perceived as a slap in the face by management, but the reality is that few of those initiatives make it out of the pipeline.

"Businesses need look no further than inside their four walls for entrepreneurial ideas," Reilly says. "In fact, they are more likely to be overwhelmed by ideas that they are unable to manage or channel. Our survey suggests that a large volume of misdirected ideas are being pursued that may create little value. In response, companies should avoid dampening entrepreneurial spirit, and yet they need to become clearinghouses of business cases, swiftly selecting innovative ideas that will generate returns and culling those that have less chance of success."

That's not happening right now, but it could be if companies invested in programs designed to specifically to draw out and nurture ideas from staffers. Accenture says that 47% of workers agree that new ideas should be "cultivated" and are willing to learn how to shape the ideas they create into viable, bottom-line revenues producers.

That's only if employers are on board, but right now, that's one train that just isn't leaving the station.

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