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Rejection can motivate employees' ideas

Employees who have proposals rejected are more likely to come back and submit more ideas, according to a report by the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.

The paper, A Radical Approach to Radical Innovation, is based on studying 1,800 suggestions left in employers' online suggestion boxes across 12 years. It suggests employees who have their ideas rejected initially are more motivated to submit further suggestions in the future.

This pattern continues until employees submit an average of 27 ideas, at which stage they are likely to give up and not submit any more.

Employees whose submissions are more successful the first time are less likely to come back with further ideas. However, those who do are more likely to be successful if they are encouraged to offer additional suggestions.

Erasmus University Rotterdam Department of Technology and Operations Management assistant professor Dirk Deichmann told HR magazine the most innovative companies create an environment where there are no negative consequences when employees submit ideas that are rejected.

"That creates a climate where people feel safe and where they can experiment," he explained. "They don't think that if they submit an unsuccessful idea it might come back to them in a future meeting with their line manager."

Deichmann suggests giving focused feedback encourages employees with unsuccessful ideas to offer more successful suggestions in the future.

"It's important to go back to these employees and say that you should focus more on certain criteria," he said. "Focusing only on the reasons something has failed in the present is necessary, but it doesn't really help people with their future submissions."