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Avoid Being Uberized: Tap into the Innovation of Your Employees


by Kelly Vandever

According to recent research from IBM, one of the biggest fears of executives is competitors “coming out of nowhere” to disrupt their industry and business in the way that Uber has upended the taxi business.

That got me to thinking. If organizations were more tapped into their employees, if employees were more engaged and comfortable speaking up, could they avoid becoming the next disrupted business?

What do you think? Comment below.


Blockbusters card

Disruption Isn’t New.

On September 14, 2014, I took this picture and posted on Facebook, “Found this cleaning out some old files. Do you think it’s okay to throw it away?”

My cousin Tom commented, “No. Might fine u.” For those of you who grew up before Blockbuster, they were notorious for their fines and late fees. I swear they made their real money through their fines! The fines could amount to more than buying the video outright!

But I have to believe that when Netflix started out, there were more than a few employees thinking, “Why don’t we do something like this?”

Clearly the execs weren’t because, well, when’s the last time you saw a Blockbuster store?

But what if…what if Blockbusters had an open environment?

What if Blockbuster encouraged employees to engage using their social enterprise network…

What if, employees on the network voiced their concerns…

“Hey, our Friday night sales are steadily dropping. I think it’s this Netflix thing. When are we going to have home delivery?”


“We need to stop charging the crazy late fees. One day if someone else comes along and doesn’t charge them, we’re going to quickly lose business!”

If Blockbuster had been an open environment, if employees felt they had permission to speak, could Blockbuster have been saved?


Are Your Employees Sitting on Ideas for Your Business?

What if that new idea that could expand your business is in the mind of an employee who’s not in the R&D group?

What if one of your customer care reps has noticed an alarming trend with your clients?

What if your employee hears a customer talking about another need and the employee kind of thinks your company can help but isn’t sure?

How do you know if these employees are bringing these ideas forward?


Do You Have Tools in Place – And Do Employees Know about Them?

Does your organization have a venue through which employees can bring ideas forward? What is it? Do all employees know about it? What percent of employees have actually brought an idea forward?


Do You Have an Encouraging Climate?

If you have a tool in place and employees aren’t using it, then why aren’t they using it?

Are they afraid to bring ideas forward because they don’t want to look stupid?

Or will they get in trouble from their manager for “jumping” the chain of command?

When was the last time you celebrated an idea that was brought forward that got the ball rolling, but that at first may have sounded silly?

Or do all the ideas only come from up top?


Leaders Are Smart. But So Are Employees.

I love to hear leaders with amazing visions for their organizations.

But still, I have to believe that really smart leaders are willing to listen too.

Smart leaders know that employees are closer to the “real work” of an organization. An open, honest employee willing to look a leader in the eye and tell him how his hypothesis is off and what can be done about it…that has to be worth something, right?

Smart leaders recognize that employees hear things from their clients that the execs do not. An employee who’s willing to share the real story without fear of being killed as the messenger, that has to be valuable to the success of a company, yes?


The Uberization of Your Business

I don’t know if cab drivers themselves would have seen Uber coming. I don’t know if they would have made suggestions to the powers that drive a taxi company what they could have done instead.

But maybe, just maybe, there are some answers in your employees. Or at least it’s worth a shot to try.


What Do You Think?

Please add your thoughts in the comments below.



Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world.   Connect with Kelly and discover how opening up and speaking practically can bring you better business results. 

Contact Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her or tweet her @KellyVandever.