Creating a Speak Up Culture and Maximizing Engagement [Swae’s 5-Step Organizational Readiness Checklist]

Creating a Speak Up Culture and Maximizing Engagement [Swae’s 5-Step Organizational Readiness Checklist]

Creating a Speak Up Culture and Maximizing Engagement

[Swae’s 5-Step Organizational Readiness Checklist]

6 min read

Resources_Swae_Harvard_Business_review_Approaches to Solving Problems in the Workplace

The desire to engage employees and create a more diverse, inclusive culture where people feel free to speak up is an obvious win-win for everyone in an organization (if you don’t believe us, then please read MIT Sloan Management’s Review that shares that When Employees Speak Up, Companies Win).

This study found that:

In a speak-up style culture (that includes more diverse voices), the employees that speak up about a multitude of topics exhibit positive employee behaviors.
Employees who speak up the most are 92% more likely to want to stay with the company (even if offered a comparable position elsewhere).
96% of the employees, who feel comfortable speaking up, work in teams that have leadership that value diverse perspectives and feel safe to express their viewpoints.

Organizations face new challenges daily…

Tech is evolving rapidly, Social needs are changing, Demographic power is shifting and COVID is impacting global norms. This all results in more and more challenges for organizations to tackle…

…and their people are the #1 source to finding good solutions to them

  • Internal employees 60% 60%
  • Technology partners 50% 50%
  • Channel & Business Model Partners 44% 44%
  • Customers (via focus groups, data mining, feedback) 35% 35%
  • Supply Chain Partners / Vendors 29% 29%
  • Similar organizations outside regional market 23% 23%
  • Academics & Research organizations 22% 22%
  • Entrepreneurs, Startups 16% 16%


How do you get started to create a more inclusive speak-up culture?

There are many things to consider when creating this type of culture in your workplace, and finding a good technology that can support inclusivity can make your life easier. Making the investment to help your workplace deepen collaboration, get more organized, and be more productive are critical steps.

But, is your organization ready to implement a platform like Swae?

You may be wondering, why would Swae even require preparation?

Because Swae is way more than a simple voting/crowdsourcing/survey platform; it’s a robust, community-driven, and consensus-building platform that enables decision-making that’s driven by collective intelligence.

Leadership within a company needs to truly value (and want to hear) employees’ voices, and should be OK with making commitments to make decisions. There’s an underlying social contract within Swae, because we’re in direct opposition to the closed-door, top-down hierarchical decision-making approach (the old way of doing things).

If you’d like a quick review from Swae’s CEO/Founder, Soushiant Zanganehpour, please watch this quick video here (or keep reading on below).


The Top 5 Things Your Organization Needs Before Implementing Swae


A Relevant Topic or Mission

Get strategic about what you want to tackle using Swae: You’ll want to have a strategic desire to solve organizational challenges and to crowdsource ideas and solutions for these from a larger group in a more robust manner than ever before.

And, leadership should be ready with decision-making processes to surround the work (we have a free decision-making guide here if you’d like some of our recommendations).

The Swae team can help your organization target and define the challenges to begin, but the organization should be ready to unlock the collective intelligence of your people.


Enough People to Collaborate with

You’ll want to have approx. 20 or more people toget the very best from Swae:

This means that you’ll want to open a mission (or more than one mission) up to at least that many people as this will bring you more success in getting better engagement.

Small teams can more effortlessly create inclusive cultures as there isn’t as much hierarchy and layers. Since Swae works on collective intelligence, the more people the better!


Ongoing time needed to manage Swae

Once you’re up and running and you have missions already going within the platform, you’ll want to commit to about ~ 1 or so hours a week (dependent on how many missions you’re running at a time).

This is for the ongoing time that’s necessary to review the proposals people are writing for new ideas and inputting into the platform, share feedback, check the crowdsourcing/votes, and improve the success of engagement ongoing, including communication with all stakeholders. This would be dependent on how you break up the tasks with admins/leaders in your company.


Executive Buy-in to Make Decisions

Because there’s an underlying social contract within Swae that’s in direct opposition to the closed-door, top-down hierarchical decision-making approach, make sure to gain executive buy-in fully. It’s an open-suggestion box that can allow more people to get involved and speak up. It’s best that 1-2 decision makers and leaders review winning ideas ongoing within the platform. We recommend creating a committee or group that will escalate the best ideas and make decisions on those and be willing to work on making the best ideas a reality. (This could work alongside incentive programs to keep your employees hyper-engaged in adding their unique value noted below.)


Idea Enablement Plan

You’ll want to create a rough plan for how winning ideas might be implemented and any incentives you’d like to provide: You can create employee engagement money incentives, prizes, or other perks like extra time off, etc. Having an ongoing incentivization strategy can support your ongoing efforts to create a more inclusive (and engaged) culture.

Quick Overview on How Swae Works

This is the methodology of Swae to help you understand the features and functions of the platform so that it makes more sense in HOW you do the above.

Swae is layered, and each of the layers are important. Here’s a quick breakdown:


  • Organization: The first layer is the organization. It’s important to strategically choose the missions you want to take on; these are the challenges you want to find new and improved ideas for, or problems that need solutions from a larger set of people to source from.
  • Missions and Challenges: Once you’ve chosen the missions you want to start getting ideas for, you’ll set up the unique parameters for the exact goals you want to hit, escalation metrics, and whatever specific parameters that are right for your company.
  • Proposal creation: Once you start collecting the ideas from your employees or customers, the proposals they write will go through an AI review process to ensure they’re well-written and more formalized. Once their proposals are input, other people can collaborate on those and vote to help you filter out the best of the best ideas. The proposed ideas or solutions that bubble up to the top would be the ones that are presented to your committee for decision-making. The proposed ideas that don’t escalate to the top will go into the archives on Swae.

A straightforward & seamless process

The size of your organization could be as small as 50-100 people like the way LifeLabs used Swae. They had one decision maker and used ¼ of a coordinator’s time. They met quarterly to review ideas, and the monies they had to allocate to their efforts also helped turn some of the ideas into a reality.

You can have something as small and manageable as LifeLabs, or you can have a situation that’s as extensive and large as what Etihad Airways used Swae for; this enterprise had 20,000 people and a larger fund to invest in various ideas wrapped around innovation. Etihad used Swae to collect new product development ideas, new operational improvements, and more. They created an accelerator program and other sorts of things that were combined with what they did on Swae, but it doesn’t need to be as extensive as that. You could utilize a project management office that reviews proposals and works with an individual over a period to turn an idea into reality without an entire program.

You can gain a much better visual as to how Swae works by watching this video


Speak up cultures pay back…

Using Swae to nurture a culture shift in your team where everyone becomes comfortable to speak up sounds fantastic- but what about the hard numbers?

In almost every instance, Swae delivers incredible payback- not just in terms of employee motivation & satisfaction, but in cold, hard strategy that you can turn into actionable, profitable ideas…


avg. value of innovation ideas revealed over 12 months.


increase in engagement of your employees*.


direct cost saving ideas have been generated.


3 Month average payback period.


improvement in time saved by administrators managing idea generation program.


improvement in sourcing investable decisions*.

Results based on aggregated findings and impacts reports from client implementations.
*Over and above other engagement tools & approaches used.

No-one knows our business better than our employees, that’s why we partnered with Swae to give them the platform they need to innovate.

Tony Douglas CEO of


Still wondering about Swae?

Worried about how it’ll work inside your organization? Not sure if you really need Swae today?

We’ve got your back– just drop us a message and one of our team will talk openly and honestly with you about how Swae can benefit you (it works magic for 99% of teams)- and if its not a good fit for right now then we’ll all happily carry on with our day. So drop us a line and let’s chat 🙂

More to explore…
5 reasons why Polls and Surveys do more harm than good

5 reasons why Polls and Surveys do more harm than good


5 reasons why Polls and Surveys do more harm than good

8 minute read December, 2021

FOFO business leaders not listening

As hard as it may feel, it’s time to toss out your old approach to boosting engagement, unlocking hidden feedback, and generating good ideas (there’s a better way, we promise).

Let’s start with the precursor to today’s popular digital polls, pulse checks and surveys: The suggestion box. According to Wikipedia, a U.S Senator from Indiana named Voorhees first introduced the suggestion box in 1890’s, and referred to it as ‘The Petition Box.’ Voorhees insights and intentions were likely ahead of his time, in today’s world this old-school contraption likely collects more dust than great ideas, and the paper suggestions or feedback within it are as neglected as the boxes they sit within. If you have one in your office, when was the last time you checked it? Be honest.

It’s no surprise why – the visual of this box (whether physical or digital) represents an artifact of history – made for an entirely different cultural, technological, and communications era. It is the epitome of a broken feedback loop and incomplete two-sided social contract.

Assume that your people take it seriously and take to it to share their powerful ideas or important pieces of feedback for change – when there is no regular cadence for checking it or reviewing and making decisions on the feedback received, why would people continue using it? In today’s world, it’s a form of virtue-signaling.

The digital survey. Did it get any better?

When technology advanced and brought us the internet, email and peer-to-peer communication, workplaces around the globe graduated to doing polls and surveys digitally, to rapidly understand the pulse of their employees and stakeholders on various matters.

Far better right? Unfortunately not. Electronic polls and surveys have proven to be just as ineffective as the outdated suggestion box, creating risks for the organizations.

Let me explain, and start with defining the difference between a poll and a survey.

A poll is used to ask very simplified questions (often just one question) with very little data to gather. For example, where should we organize the next off-site? When should we host the holiday party? Etc. 

A survey is generally used to ask a wide range of questions and used when a much larger set of data needs to be gathered and further analyzed. 

Polls, when properly administered and when the results are shared openly can be a powerful tool. While limited to solving very simple, multiple choice, black and white issues, they can help demonstrate where consensus lies and be a forcing function for a particular change. But in today’s world, the topics and issues that require consensus are not easy black-and-white matters. The issues that require our best insights and collective intelligence are open-ended, blue-sky topics that have no clear right answer and have high consequences for being wrong. For example: what trends might disrupt our business in the short term? How might we adapt our workplace and policies to be ahead of the challenges of Covid-19? What processes need to be digitized and how do we do so in order to be resilient towards the challenges of Covid-19? Polls can give you digestible soundbites but the outputs will rarely help you solve problems through today’s complex challenges. 

Surveys also fall short on many fronts.





Main use

Used to collect immediate feedback on a simple topic

Used to collect feedback and opinions on broader topics

Used to crowdsource decision-ready solutions, not opinions, on an important but uncertain question


When should we host our Christmas Party?

a) December 18
b) December 19
c) December 20

Should we host a Christmas Party or repurpose funds into a bigger bonus?

a) Host christmas party
b) Repurpose funds into bigger bonus
c) Other

What is the best way to celebrate the upcoming Christmas milestone with our team? In the past we’ve hosted Christmas parties but we’re open to different suggestions this year. Share your most creative proposal using Swae.

Constraints & Question Type:

Only 1 question, with restricted options for answers (e.g. 1 multiple choice question)
More than 1 question, most often with restricted options for answers (e.g. several multiple choice questions)
Only 1 question, with unlimited and unrestricted free-flowing text answers and creative proposals as responses

Participant Options

Participants respond to 1 multiple choice question
Participants respond to different types of questions
Participants invested to submit solutions, not multiple choice answers

Time Investment Required

Seconds to complete
Minutes to complete
Minutes to complete (build proposal)


Provides limited but concrete data about the opinion of people on a topic so decision maker can make an upcoming decision
Provides more information than a poll to help predict future trends or inform the design of an upcoming decision
Provides rich, decision-ready proposals to help decision-makers help solve a problem or unlock hidden value or design appropriate responses to an upcoming decision and important uncertainty
Source: Parts of this chart were made referencing

Source Pediaa

Next, let’s get into the top 5 reasons why suggestion boxes, polls and surveys are a thing of the past:

Workplace polls and surveys are innately biased by design and produce biased unreliable results. We all have cognitive biases – from anchoring, confirmation, to overoptimism or pessimism biases – and these biases can significantly limit and frame the way in which we ask for input. The design of a question can in turn limit the types of responses you receive back – and in many ways help justify the end goal you were inclined to choose yourself. This is a form of “conclusion shopping”.

Bias results can have negative impacts on your strategic choices and decisions; Reverse engineering the collection of limited data from the survey to justify a certain approach can limit how your organization copes in a crisis for example. Bias ensures that you won’t get reliable results and is pretty sneaky as it’s often unintentional. Biases are more likely to show up in polls or surveys because a) there are very few survey creator(s), and b) the respondents only have 2 choices – respond to the options presented or skip the question. When the survey or poll designers have their own goal in mind, this can significantly skew the provided questions or respondents’ answers and dramatically influences the results affecting the credibility and value of data received.

Polling or surveys limit collaboration and learning opportunities for participants, as well as the refinement of ideas through collective intelligence. Being closed, tightly-guarded, non-transparent, and one-directional exercises by a single department or group to collect opinions from the masses, the result is often that others who’ve participated are prevented from seeing their colleagues’ answers and demands. This lack of transparency limits learning and collaboration opportunities, and most certainly limits the chance to turn problems into relevant solutions through creative collaboration and the wisdom of the crowds.

The closed, one-directional approach of surveys is increasingly mismatched for the times we live in. A conventional engagement survey is a one-way, extractive, and closed communication process. The approach increasingly feels like something from the past, something totally misaligned with today’s modern culture, anchored in the culture of social media and modern technology that embraces more open, equal, two or many-to-many directional, transparent, and informal communication approaches. When the process of collecting opinions is designed in a way to limit visibility and extract information without any guarantee of sharing results or the value of the information with participants, better yet, commit to any action in advance they inherently breed suspicion, mistrust, and lack of engagement.

Surveys and polls breed and multiply cynicism, and lack of trust. Employee feedback is critical in today’s workplace. Given the times we live in, employees have a lot to say – suggestions, improvements, even discontent —and we at Swae strongly believe everyone needs an outlet to voice their opinion.

But in today’s environment of low trust and ever-increasing insecurity about what the future holds in store, when the company keeps asking for feedback through surveys and nothing happens with the feedback, employees quickly turn cynical and mild disengagement turns into apathy and in some cases resentment.

According to a Cornell National Social Survey, when organizations do surveys and not take any action, the results are astounding:

  • 26% respondents of surveys said they withhold information about problems or ideas for workplace improvement due to a sense of futility
  • Futility was 1.8 times more common than fear as a reason why respondents would withhold responses or disengage from surveys

When employees feel like their feedback is not being taken seriously, they in turn disengage. It’s pretty simple to understand. It’s not that they don’t want to provide feedback, but leadership at the organization is not living up to their end of the agreement and backing surveys up with any action.

Surveys and polls are broken feedback loops by design (in a time when closing the loop is ever more important). Related to the two points above, surveys and polls rarely commit in advance to doing something with results and in their lies the principle problem. Just like their well-intentioned but outdated predecessors the suggestion box, polling or surveys rarely commit in-advance to act on the most popular or most useful ideas/feedback. The fact that there is no accountability that any good insights and ideas shared will be acted upon to create any improvements is the most troubling of all. If nothing changes after a person provides their feedback in a poll or survey time, and time again, completely neglects a fundamental need of employees today.

At its heart, a survey is an invitation for the respondent to give their opinion. As such, it should be the most basic form of civility to acknowledge their responses and ideally the organization should share what it has learnt, while talking about the actions it intends to take.

When these basic steps are absent, the result is very predictable. For employees, all future engagement exercises are compromised because the subtle social contract has been broken and undermined. Trust is now out the door. Once trust disappears, the sanctity of the process is forever gone and nobody takes the results seriously, except the managers who would like to humblebrag about their engagement metrics (and conveniently sidestep the details of the responses from participants).

They are one-directional extractive exercises that breed futility. They provide little to no value to the participants, because they don’t get to see others’ answers and most times rarely get to see the end results. In most cases – they are disingenuous attempts to demonstrate to employees that they care about them when in fact there is a premeditated plan that nothing much is to be done with the results in the first place.

What is left is a ritual where, despite best intentions, the organization appears to pretend to care for employees’ opinions – and the employees pretend to care to give those opinions.

The truth in today’s world is most people won’t fully engage or give their best ideas if they know in advance that their contributions may not change anything.

Why speak up if it won’t make a difference? Why invest in an organization that dismisses you?

The impact of this on morale is disastrous. Futility turns to apathy and resentment.

Without commitment and some direct integration into the decision-making process, engagement tools, surveys, feedback processes are futile. Those participating will inevitably feel the process is pointless. People are getting much more selective about what they will and won’t engage in. For people to engage deeply and meaningfully, they need incentives they believe in, and systems in place that they trust to contribute their absolute fullest.

It’s time to depart with the tools of the past and allow for powerful technologies to step in. This is where we say hello to Swae.

Meet Swae, the idea management platform your people will love and trust.

Swae is not polling or a surveying tool. It’s a marketplace for ideas and well-developed proposals.

Swae is different from surveys and polls because it’s designed to close the feedback loop with decision-science and user empathy at its core.

Swae’s platform transforms the old way of collecting feedback through polls and surveys. It’s transformative in that our clients source creative and collaborative solutions to complex questions and versus gathering selective opinions to a very limited set of questions.

As a manager or decision maker, Swae helps you hear what you’re not hearing by giving users incentives that other platforms and tools don’t.

Your people want to have a voice in decisions and want their voice to be heard. Engagement surveys and the like don’t do this justice.

If hearing truth and great ideas is as important to you as it is for us, you’ll understand that it’s a two-way street.

At Swae we believe that if you want to hear what you’re not hearing, you need to understand why people aren’t talking.

People don’t trust one-directional engagement surveys that don’t go anywhere.

They want to know their ideas may lead to changes, or at a minimum know how they can do better on the next attempt. It’s about a two-way conversation, not a one directional monolog.

Swae helps you do both.

As we shared above, polling or surveys rarely commit in advance to act on the most popular or most valuable ideas/feedback, so respondents don’t know what good it will do if they take their time to fill them out. Swae deals with the looming issue of futility and cynicism directly – because it is built with a modern social contract built into it.

How Swae Works

Here’s how Swae works:

A manager gets to set up the main mission or challenge that they are looking for creative proposals from employees. They also get to determine what metrics and KPIs a proposal needs to achieve before being eligible for a decision review.

Then it’s over to the employees to enter in their proposals with the topic in mind.

Swae’s AI and collective intelligence features help users turn their feedback and opinions into proposals and smart decisions through a merit-based process. Swae’s AI helps people write a stronger pitch for their idea.

Once the idea is on the platform, the crowd is invited to edit the idea, add strengths and weaknesses, and vote for the best solution in mind. The collection of the engagement points help determine how ‘decision-ready’ the idea is. If the total engagement exceeds the metrics set up by my management, the idea automatically moves to a decision review.

Management still gets to make the final decisions about the fate of the ideas that have bubbled up to the top but the filtering process happens based on merit and transparency.

The only requirement is that whatever management chooses to decide, they share their reasoning for accepting or rejecting decisions online so all employees or stakeholders who were involved in the challenge learn about priorities and strategy.

Swae’s Benefits

This process helps ensure trust, and keeps intrinsic motivations high enough for continuous engagement and use. This helps break the broken feedback loop cycle of traditional surveys, polls and other engagement attempts.

Using Swae, people see the direct link between ideation to decision-making and organizational change.

The results of this are astounding. When people in an organization believe their voice matters, and believe in the opportunity to influence the agenda, they trust the process and engage more deeply. An engaged employee, stakeholder, or citizen who has trust invests more discretionary effort and emotional equity than the bare minimum expected. This leads them to unleash their creativity and ideas, engaging with others’ ideas to improve upon them, and ultimately helping shape and generate better quality ideas for the organization to select from, helping leaders make more effective decisions (from the bottom-up).

Swae’s platform creates a safe, inclusive, and anonymous space for problem and solution generation inside any organization, allowing leaders to source investable solutions, hear the truth, boost engagement, and reduce bias in important strategic decisions to improve overall performance. Swae helps create an ideal meritocracy inside organizations for all kinds of important decisions. By implementing Swae, teams, companies, and government entities benefit from greater inclusion and diversity, access to better quality ideas to select from, without making significant structural changes to how they manage the organization.

Swae is proud to be the only platform that helps turn people’s ideas into proposals and investable decisions through a “bottom-up process” that leverages AI and the intelligence of the crowd.

How Swae can help?

Within Swae’s environment, people can offer their authentic feedback and build thought-provoking proposals to share their ideas and solutions in a safe and inclusive environment. People can stay anonymous, allowing leaders/decision-makers to source more investable solutions because people feel safer, hear the truth, boost engagement, and reduce bias in critical strategic decisions to improve overall performance.

Swae allows for more opportunities to generate more revenues and save money or time. Swae is a place where people can hear problems they didn’t even know existed and then, in response, unleash the creativity of their people to solve the most pressing issues.

How Swae can Help Your Organization?

If you’re looking to innovate faster and be truly flexible in our fast-changing world, we invite you to connect with us for a limited free trial of “Swae’s 21st century suggestion box”. 

Whether you are a team, company or government entity, the benefit you will garner from greater inclusion and diversity will speak for itself.

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Does Your Company Suffer from the Fear of Finding Out (FOFO)

Does Your Company Suffer from the Fear of Finding Out (FOFO)


Does Your Company Suffer from the Fear of Finding Out (FOFO)?

8 Minute Read
FOFO business leaders not listening

This cultural and psychological barrier could be stopping your company from uncovering the hidden challenges that could derail you on your track to success

What is FOFO, the Fear of Finding Out?

We’ve all seen the meme of the ostrich with its head in the sand. And I’m sure you can recall someone in your life who behaves this way, not opening that piece of mail or asking the questions they know may bring unfavorable information, shielding themselves to temporarily preserve their ‘comfortable status quo’ or carefully crafted worldview.

The “Ostrich Effect” describes peculiar human behavior where individuals avoid information, they believe may be unpleasant. While there is speculation over who coined the term “ostrich effect” first – either behavioural economist George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University or Israeli economists Dan Galai and Orly Sade (in a 2006 paper about investor behavior) – both used the phenomenon to describe the peculiar human behavior seen with investors and how they chose to stick their heads in the sand during lousy markets, ignoring information presented to them, or interpreting that information in a way that ignores potentially troubling implications.

And now cue today’s “Ostrich Effect”; “FOFO”, prevalent in so many organizations we see. Simply put, it’s the “Fear of Finding Out”, or the selective avoidance of negative information.

Could this cultural and psychological barrier be stopping your company from uncovering the hidden challenges that could derail your track to success?

Strong managers are listeners. Giving your team avenues to share problems and ideas can translate into change that matters

What is FOFO?

They say “out of sight, out of mind” but is that really true?

Similar to the Ostrich Effect, FOFO is the fear of finding out, or simply, the fear of knowing the truth. It is often used in the finance industry to describe customers afraid of opening their accounts due to the fear of poor financial health. According to a recent Barclays Bank study, 37% of Millennials had FOFO about their finances and did not like to check their bank accounts.” (R3 Consulting, Overcoming FOFO)

FOFO is also used in the medical field for those afraid to seek medical treatment and finding out they have a condition. Apparently, ‘Fear of Finding Out’ in the health industry makes up a 33% of conscious reasons why people don’t visit the doctor.

The research around FOFO from the medical industry shows that the ‘Fear of Finding Out’ mostly affects those who have an unhealthy lifestyle, and those who struggle to cope with the knowledge of a life-threatening illness. It can also impact those who do not want to be “pressured’ into making lifestyle changes.”

Fear is the foundation on which ‘Fear of Finding Out’ is built upon, and research shoes there are 3 main pillars:

  • Fear of the initiating action – 45% of women and 37% of men found the difficulty making an appointment a key barrier
  • Fear of the investigative process – 33% of adults who admitted that they had avoided a doctor visit that they deemed necessary citing ‘discomfort with a body examination’ as the primary reason
  • Fear of outcomes and implications – one of the most widely endorsed barriers to consultation in regards to cancer was found to be the ‘worry about what the doctor might find’, which was true for 34% of men and 40% of women. Furthermore, between 12% and 55% of people who undergo testing for HIV fail to return to learn whether they are infected

(Source: Cision)

Whatever the origins of FOFO, we at Swae have observed this phenomenon to be deeply prevalent in decision-makers, and the parallels in our findings hold true across all industries and organization types. What we have found is an apprehension – or sometimes even inability – to hear the truth about the problems that persist in their organization and the associated negative impacts they might have on their company’s organizational health and performance, in order to avoid conflicts or disrupt their status quo.

Everybody knows they exist, they are known but not discussable


We, at Swae, know organizations thrive and work better when leaders actively acknowledge potentially unpleasant information rather than run from it. We’ve partnered with numerous organizations to correct the detrimental outcomes that have come from simple “pure avoidance.”

To avoid potential disaster and confront FOFO, it is important to first understand where FOFO originates from, and why it’s allowed to persist. It is then possible to open up to the solutions to combat FOFO directly at a systems level in your workforce.
Why do leaders allow FOFO to persist inside organizations?

According to Michael Beer – Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School and author of “Fit to Compete: Why Honest Conversations About Your Company’s Capabilities are the Key to a Winning Strategy” – there are six reasons why leaders allow FOFO to persist inside organizations.
These ‘“silent killers”, as he calls them include:

  1. Unclear strategy, values, and conflicting priorities.
  2. An ineffective senior team.
  3. Leadership behavior – top-down or laissez-faire (hands off).
  4. Poor coordination across businesses, functions, or geographic regions.
  5. Inadequate leadership/management skills and development in the organization.
  6. Low capacity for honest, collective, and public conversations about external and internal reality.

Number 6, the low capacity for honest, collective, and public conversations about external and internal realities is closely related to how good a company is at making change happen (and stick).

If problems aren’t recognized and realities aren’t faced, then a company doesn’t have a sturdy foundation, and without a sturdy foundation how can you build a solid structure?

It’s not about whether you believe in collective intelligence or not. It’s about if you can afford not to listen to the early warning signs and delay action. Swae helps you avoid expensive mistakes and issues

From our experience at Swae, number 6 is the most important and telling factor because it closely correlates to, and in some cases has a causal relationship with, how good and fast a company is at making meaningful and structural change happen (and making change stick) to improve their situation.

We’ve spent the past 3 years deploying our idea management and decision-making platform into various organizations, cultures, and environments, working with leaders across the Globe. Through this, we’ve observed that FOFO is allowed to persist inside organizations because:

  • Leaders don’t want hear the truth because they don’t want to take responsibility over solving it;
  • Leaders already know the truth and can’t do anything about it (lack of scope or authority); or;
  • Leaders afraid of the negative consequences and potential backlash to them from raising the truth or suggesting solutions to known problems

Furthermore, our research with these leaders and decision-makers have clearly shown that organizations that are more risk-averse, who operate under rigid and multi-tiered hierarchies are the most likely to suffer from FOFO at all layers of decision-making, particularly amongst upper and senior leadership. The characteristics and red-flags that come up time and time again include:


  • Disregard for employee voice and/or feedback
  • Tolerance towards a persisting unhealthy culture
  • Resistance towards changing of structure or approach in the face of existential threats (new technologies, trends, cultural expectations, etc.)

What is the cost and risk of allowing problems and FOFO to linger?

Unfortunately, ignorance is not bliss.

FOFO can silently destroy a company before it even knows what’s happening. Leaders typically look at the health of the company when it comes to numbers like revenue and profit, but there are many other factors that fly under the radar. This can include measures like operational or infrastructure issues, the decline in the health of a company’s culture, marketing/sales issues that hinder growth, and more.

FOFO and The Ostrich effect can be a serious drawback to tackling costly problems in organizations. Because it’s so overwhelming to contemplate the severity and complexity and interrelationships of the issues, it’s often easier for decision-makers to just ignore them or reject their importance or downplay information that contradicts their more positive narrative.

Unaddressed FOFO is dangerous, as problems left to linger means organizations are actively eroding their foundation

How can you eliminate FOFO?

Now here’s an important question for you…

If you’ve read the above and still feel comfortable selectively avoiding hard realities and prefer not to embrace the ignorance is bliss mentality, then the next section is not for you.

But, if you want to confront the realities head on, then read on:

At the root of FOFO is the fear of having uncomfortable discussions and possibly constructive but tense disagreements about the realities that confront the organization. FOFO is about confronting the elephants in the room, and in some cases, shining a light on the real truth often to those with authority who may not want to hear it. The fears of doing this are real – the act of speaking up may have ripple effects and consequences on your standing, autonomy, and access to resources.

But, not speaking up usually means that you are prolonging the inevitable. More often than not, silence means that you’re risking your own future, your company’s future, and the future of colleagues you now call friends within your organization as a whole.

To tackle FOFO head on, you must value the potential positive outcomes and solutions that you might reveal more than the discomfort of the process of revealing the challenges. The positive consequences and results must outweigh both the discomfort of raising the issue and the pain of carrying around unresolved truths for a never ending period of time. That’s a heavy burden to carry.

In a world of empty promises, manipulation, and deception, a true leader cares for the well-being of others; she shoes commitment to advancing the best interests of those around her…Ultimately, it’s this kind of love that defines the best CEOs on the planet.”

Marcel Schwantes
Founder of Leadership from the Core

How Swae can help?

The potentially devastating consequences of FOFO can be neutralized when leaders learn how to face the truth, even when it hurts.

Swae was designed to help leaders and employees create a “speak up” culture for everyone’s benefit, without making significant structural changes to how they manage the organization.

By implementing a technology platform like Swae, this enables an organization to source insights and ideas from more people more often, leaders can easily tap into the hidden problems that people are facing and open the funnel to discover winning and decision-ready solutions for solving issues — from the bottom-up.

Simply put, when more voices are heard, leaders see and know more, and they become empowered with new insights consistently. It’s becoming quite widely accepted that our best ideas and solutions can come from an organization’s people (regardless of hierarchy), the same few people don’t need to decide the fate of many.

If you feel your company suffers from FOFO, start by implementing any of these solutions above and you can start to correct your course. A path that’s unique for your people and for the purpose of your company.

If you want to overcome your FOFO, Swae is a turnkey solution that can give your employees a safe and streamlined way to express their feelings, raise problems and give you their best ideas. 

We’d love to hear from you!

As we continue to dig deeper and deeper into this subject matter, we find FOFO is something that resonates with so many of our clients, colleagues and friends. If you find the above all too familiar, we would love to chat and learn more about your specific experience and would love 10 minutes of your time to chat.

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LifeLabs Partners with Swae to Crowdsource COVID-19 Business and Operation Adaptations While Keeping Employees Feeling Engaged and Valued

LifeLabs Partners with Swae to Crowdsource COVID-19 Business and Operation Adaptations While Keeping Employees Feeling Engaged and Valued

Swae’s AI-empowered technology drives employee engagement and encourages collaboration building inclusive decision-making processes and healthy, high-performing organizations.



The Business Case for Swae

The Covid-19 crisis has magnified the importance for most business leaders that investing in technologies to keep their employees engaged day-to-day, as well as included in important decision-making processes, isn’t a feel-good measure but critical for driving success.

Employees that feel valued and feel like they’re still a part of decision-making processes will be more engaged, will feel comfortable being “in the know” and will be happier in their roles. When people in an organization believe their voice matters, and believe in the opportunity to influence the agenda, they trust the process and engage more deeply. An engaged employee who has trust invests more discretionary effort and emotional equity than the bare minimum expected.


The opposite is also true. When employees feel excluded from decision-making or feel that there is a lack of transparency about core decisions (especially during a moment of existential crisis like COVID-19), they become disengaged. Disengagement prevents people from feeling like they want to be a part of anything so they’ll stop coming forward with potentially great ideas and useful insights. What follows in this vicious cycle is a lack of trust and lower morale which ultimately negatively impacts productivity, culture, and organizational performance.

That’s why LifeLabs decided to do a pilot program with Swae. Our team is excited to help them create an inclusive culture welcoming bottom-up ideas so that they can start to activate the full potential of their workforce!





LifeLabs performs over 112 million laboratory tests to help diagnose, treat, monitor, and prevent diseases for millions of Canadians. They are the largest private-public laboratories and COVID-19 testing facilities across Canada. 

In this 60-day pilot program, the LifeLabs leadership team is planning to use Swae to engage employees to gather insights and source idea innovations for adaptations to their operational and business models for their now distributed workforce (due to COVID-19). This pilot program with Swae will also help LifeLabs think about the Future of Work and understand how they can adapt processes at the patient services centers in a post-COVID world (a time or circumstance that most of us struggle to see and predict).

With all of this uncertainty, new values are reshaping the workplace every single day, and by using Swae, LifeLabs can turn the participation of their people into a powerful source of innovation potential for their organization. And this isn’t only about employee engagement, but also about providing high quality, defensible ideation, and innovative solutions for the future of the organization.

“Swae is a tool I have been hoping to see developed for many years. It dispels many of the implicit and explicit biases often seen in brainstorming exercises.”

 — Jamie Lepard, LifeLabs Business Continuity Program Manager

Building a culture where employees feel comfortable to “speak up” (also called a “speak up culture”) can, as our customers have seen, 10x employee engagement!

The goal of this relationship is that by implementing Swae’s AI-empowered technology platform, LifeLabs will get more ideas from their stakeholders, include more voices, and raise the quality, intelligence, and legitimacy of decisions. By removing the barriers to inclusion, the process they will reveal. Doing so will boost engagement and all of these things have a long-lasting impact on morale, culture, and performance.




At the most basic level, we are a high-tech suggestion box that can’t be ignored. Unlike the old school suggestion boxes that collected more dust than ideas, helps organizations create a competitive idea marketplace to source from, evaluate, and improve upon the ideas in a collaborative manner.


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