The Suggestion Box



crisis quandary nevertheless
suffer credit (3) rotary engine
profit encourage satisfaction
cherish implement what’s the use
reward intuition shoot up (3)
ignore submit (2) counter-intuitive
pride motivation come up (2)
worthy continuous accomplishment
rate monetary turn down (2)
reject suggest why bother
survive irrelevant the heck with it
thrive innovate backwards (2)


A Quandary

Managers at Mazda Corporation were in a quandary. As a result of an oil crisis in 1973, sales of their new, rotary-engine car models suffered. By 1975, Mazda profits had dropped to $5 million.

Suggestion Program

At about this time, an industrial engineer introduced a suggestion program. In it they encouraged every employee to come up with ways to improve the company: making and doing things better . . . cheaper . . . easier . . . faster on a continuous basis.

No suggestion was too small, irrelevant — or crazy.

A year passed, and workers had submitted 200,000 suggestions. Of these, management implemented 60% of them.


Five years later, Mazda’s profits had shot up to $95 million — a jump of 1,800%.

How had they done it?

Mazda officials credited their success to the suggestion system. By this time, the number of suggestions had reached two million a year, with the same level of implementation.

Unexpected Discovery

Early on they discovered something counter-intuitive.

The suggestion system involved a monetary reward for good ideas. Nevertheless, employees told the managers that had not been their primary motivation in coming up with new ideas; their greatest reward was actually seeing their suggestions implemented.


Because it gave them a tremendous of sense pride, accomplishment, satisfaction and worthiness.

Rate of Implementation

Meanwhile across the Pacific, though US corporations had also encouraged suggestions, their rate of implementation stood at about 10%.

In other words, for every ten suggestions that employees submitted to their boss, nine were turned down (or ignored or forgotten).


Now what happens when 90% of a person’s cherished ideas rejected?

They develop an attitude of “Forget it. It’s no use. The heck with it. It makes no difference. Why bother?”

But is bad business practice: history shows that if you don’t move forward, you are actually moving backwards.

Innovation and Improvement

Today most companies have come to the realization that in order to stay competitive, in order to survive and thrive in today’s ever changing market, you must continually innovate and improve.

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1. In 1975 Mazda’s business was coming along fine; business was booming. True or false?

2. What was their turnover? Was this good?

3. Their solution was . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4. The main motivation for the employees was monetary rewards. Yes or no?

5. Did Mazda’s profit margin change?

6. Compare the implementation rate between US and Japanese companies at this time.

7. How did American employees feel?

8. What is the lesson here?
A. My company, school or organization has a suggestion box or feedback system. Yes or no? Is there a reward or bonus for good ideas?

B. Does management implement suggestions, ignores them, implements some, or says “that’s a great idea” . . . but then does nothing?

C. Do you and your coworkers have lots of suggestions to improve your company, its productivity, performance and profits?

E. Do you sometimes feel frustrated at certain company rules or the way things operate?

D. What are some ideas that could improve your organization?

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