Digital Cities & Citizens

The idea box that is thinking outside the box

Caroline Wendt
January 17, 2022

Creating possibilities for employees to share ideas is perhaps not a new idea – but sometimes it’s not only about what you do but about how you make it interesting. Lund city got the chance to build Idébanken (the bank of ideas) with the help of Kraftringen’s experiences and system. The result is a transparent, digital idea box with a low threshold for employees. Four departments used the bank of ideas and around 160 ideas have been registered.

The bank of ideas is Lund municipality’s relatively fresh system to handle ideas and suggestions for improvements from employees. The employees can send their ideas to a digital idea box. Afterwards they will receive status notification but they can also comment and like other coworker’s ideas. The concept itself comes from the municipally owned energy company Kraftringen and Future by Lund helped in the background to transfer the idea. The knowledge about it came during a workshop for method development that brought together Lund/ Future by Lund and other partners. Kraftringen mentioned that they have an internal idea development program. Lars Mattiasson and Katarina Scott from Future by Lund brainstormed with Kraftringen how the program can be applied elsewhere.  The baton was then passed to Åsa Melvanius, then the head of IT at Lund municipality who thought this way of handling ideas could also be applicable in the city.  

Kraftringen allowed Lund Municipality to adapt the technology, concept, lessons learned and experiences. Since the systems were not identical the code needed to be adapted together with some other small adjustments.

− In Kraftringen idea box there was already a possibility to comment but we chose to complement it with a like function. We see that this one is clearly more used than the comment function, says the system developer Christian Lie who worked with the system since 2019 and is the coordinator.

Christian Lie.

The idea box was introduced to employees from the Municipal Office, the Services Department, Renhållningsverket (Lund’s waste treatment company) and the Culture and Leisure Services Department during spring 2020. Other departments are not connected yet. Employees can send in their ideas via the municipality’s intranet “Inloggad” and follow the process of their ideas as well as that of other ideas.

− It is important that all employees have a way to send in their ideas, says Christian Lie. We want to minimize the distance and keep track of what we do. The employees get an update here and it is transparent and clear how we handle the idea.

To sum up the first year, 162 ideas were collected in the idea box. 141 of them stem from the Services Department.  

− This illustrates what a big breakthrough the idea box had in the Services Department, says Christian Lie. They established the concept in the whole administration – from the steering group to the sections. The department has people on all levels interested in driving it forward. And it’s clear that if the head is on board it is so much easier to reach out in the organization. The effects in the Services Department are not only that they realize suggestions for improvement but also that they establish a broad innovation culture in the organization over time.

An important factor about how the idea box is being organised is that there has to be an ambassador in each administration to make it easier for employees to get in contact. The idea is to have ambassadors as close as possible to the employees own network. Another important factor is that the system keeps track of the ideas. All employees shall be able to follow the ideas and it is the ambassador’s responsibility to forward the ideas and give feedback. A part of the ideas go to the neighbor administration and others are between administrations. About 15% of the ideas go to the municipality office and are about HR or IT.

− The ambassador’s role is to mediate and give feedback, but there is no standard on what the feedback shall be, says Christian Lie. We are not working to realize the ideas but to make them go the right person and to get a fair assessment. The concept is that we are always able to get back and explain why the idea is for example paused or discarded.

So far, 60% of the processed ideas are realized or about to be realized. Every idea receives an answer.

The suggestions are completely transparent and visible for all in the idea box. It is easy to forward ideas for the ambassadors and the system also sends a reminder when it is time to continue with the matter.

The hope and ambitions are that suggestions will be taken from the idea box to the Studio Stadshuset (the municipality’s place for innovation development) where they can be further developed. There is an idea for autumn 2021 to have ideas about renewable fuel in development areas as a topic for the innovation week.

Success factors of the idea box – according to Christian Lie

It was important to embrace the networking part so that the idea ambassadors are near employees in different areas.

A strong point of the system is that the ideas exist permanently outside the people’s minds. It is not locked in a thought or an inbox but it has a digital place. The follow up of ideas happens independently of the person.

The system provides good possibilities to interact between different parts of the organization. The responsibility can shift from one person to another and you can send the suggestions to the right solution owner.

An important factor is to get the management on board. The management of the Services Department itself goes through the new ideas and has an idea about what is happening.

When you start with the idea box it is important to put in a lot of ideas early on. You can also put in things you have already done. That helps in creating volume and establishes habits.

We chose to not have a system with anonymous ideas. The reason behind that in the beginning was to find the persons behind the ideas and be able to talk to them. To not have anonymous ideas can influence in different ways the ideas one receives and how many.

7 effects of the idea box

More ideas reach the right decisionmaker.

An innovation culture is created.

The system helps to keep track of things, so they don’t just fade away.

When the ambassador puts an idea down, everybody knows why.

The idea box fosters democracy by letting go forward more than the loudest talking person in the meeting.

It is easy to send initiatives between administrations since there is a digital project that can be handed over.

The unit receives a statistic for the units and employee’s innovation work.

Translation Chrisitn Scheller


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