Many organizations conduct food or clothing drives in conjunction with some of their events. Example: a local theatre asks people to bring a canned good to certain performances of a play.
While often conducted with no participation incentive offered, in some cases people are given a discount or other reward for their charitable effort.
Let's keep doing these drives to benefit others, but let's also appropriate the concept for our own internal efforts. Let's make offering an idea part of the price of admission to an event: perhaps the annual conference or maybe the monthly staff meeting. The idea solicitation could be open-ended or input could be sought for specific strategic organizational goals or thorny issues needing solutions.
And if you want to reward people for participating, it wouldn't take much. Offer $5 off annual dues invoices if payment includes an idea for improving the association. Annual meeting registrants who submit an idea on their registration form are entered into a drawing for free hotel nights.
Incented or not, let's make the ongoing collection of ideas from everyone part of the way we do things around here. Then let's publish them for everyone to see and invite people to vote for their 5-10 favorites. Then let's invite people to volunteer to help make the favorites a reality, contributing their time or money. Or let's recruit sponsors who commit to fund an idea and bring it to fruition.
The ideas are already being shared ... just not with leadership. Members and customers talk among themselves all the time about their ideas for programs and organizations: "If only they would ... " "I can't believe they never ... "
What if we break down the false we-they wall once and for all and make everyone a part of idea generation, prototype iteration, and final product implementation? Good things are bound to result.