Dr. Alan Robinson, an award winning author, consultant and professor of management at the University of Massachusetts, Isenberg School of Management, spoke at a seminar based on the principles he has written about in the book he coauthored with Dean Schroeder, "Ideas are Free." Hosted by the Montana State University College of Business, the lecture was part of the Family Business Program.

Robinson offered valuable information to local business owners and managers about capitalizing on employees' ideas and suggestions.

Highlights of this guest lecture included Robinson's observations and studies finding that often front-line workers see a great many problems and opportunities their managers do not see. "Today, most managers either don't realize the full power of employee ideas or have never learned how to tap them effectively," Robinson said. He continued by pointing out simple ways of capturing these ideas and implementing them into effective systems that will benefit companies by helping to save money and minimize wasted resources.

Additionally, Robinson proposed that some of the most common attempts to capture employees' ideas are ineffective at best. For example, the suggestion box, which is found in many businesses today, dates back to medieval times and rarely produces an environment in which employees are encouraged to make suggestions.

Robinson also explained that rewarding ideas with financial gifts is not necessary. He has found employees simply appreciate verbal reinforcements and hope to see their ideas implemented.

"Robinson's presentation was stimulating and very informative," said Dr. Nancy Dodd, associate professor of management for the College of Business and director of the Family Business Program. "I am confident every attendee left with ideas about how to apply 'Ideas Are Free' concepts in his or her business."

Robinson has developed many of his theories by observing more than 100 companies with which he has consulted in 11 different countries, including Japan, Great Britain, China, India, Brazil, Greece and Russia. These businesses vary greatly in size and function, from major car manufacturers to day spas and textile companies.

The Montana Family Business Program and this seminar have been made possible by MSU College of Business, Bradford Roofing Management, Darigold Farms, Combs Law Firm, PC, and TwoMedicine.