I have finished with the theme of analysing trends and getting insights to understand customers’ requirements as a starting point for innovation. After an opportunity or challenge for the organisation’s innovation efforts have been identified, the ideas hopefully starts rolling in from the employees.
But what if you have the winning idea (in your opinion), how can you increase the chances of your idea getting selected for implementation?
The Chosen One
I have seen it many times. Employees who are able (and willing at first…) to generate fresh, creative ideas stops contributing because their ideas never get implemented. I have argued this scenario from the organisation’s viewpoint a good deal, i.e. not having the capacity to implement every single idea and making sure the best ideas get chosen for implementation. These include measures like aligning ideas to strategy, having appropriate evaluation criteria, a transparent process, properly scoping innovation projects, etc. (A quick side note, please remember to always give feedback to an idea contributor, if there is anything that kills an innovation culture, it is ignoring people’s ideas.) But what about the employee’s side of the story? What measures can employees take to increase the chances of their useful ideas getting implemented?
I believe that every person can become a better innovator, but not every person is necessarily a natural innovator. I am talking about those people who always have lots of ideas; good ideas, bad ideas, crazy ideas, but they always seem to look at something from a different angle. Hopefully you know the type, and if you don’t, please hire some…
Sometimes you just know you have a great idea and that it would successfully solve a frustrating problem or exploit an opportunity with potential. But, sadly, many times these great ideas never get to see the light of day. The reasons may be ample, but let me name two major ones, which are also interrelated: Organisational politics and acquiring the required resources to implement the idea. You know how it works, the ideas of Mr/Mrs So-and-So always get chosen because: “state your reason here”. This is a column on innovation, not corporate politics.
Converting an idea into a reality (regardless of the required investment of time and money) is never an easy task. In fact, it is extremely difficult. No one will ever understand your idea or the dynamics associated with it like you do. So, following is some advice on how you can increase the odds of making your idea a reality.
Firstly and most obviously, if your organisation does have a transparent and fair idea selection process, make sure that you know the process from start to end, including the absolute “have-to-haves” (e.g. a business case), the “nice-to-haves” (e.g. a prototype) and the “please do not includes” (e.g. a 100 page internet article on why your idea is the next big thing). Also, make sure you know the required stage gates for progression of your idea through the process, e.g. sign-off by your line manager or registration on your website. It is also wise to identify the key role-players and decision makers in the process, and it will not hurt to get to know them and their preferences better. Pitching an idea is an art in itself, and not specifically the topic here, but proper pitching does play an important role in getting an idea implemented.
The reality is however that some organisations do not have a fair and transparent process for idea selection, and will therefore require some other skills from the contributor to get his / her ideas implemented.
There are many forces at play with regards to getting ideas implemented, from politics to budget constraints. I have introduced the topic and also made a few suggestions for idea contributors to increase the chances of implementation of their ideas in organisations with a formal process. Next time I will give some more guidelines for implementing ideas in organisations with “not so formal” processes. I conclude with a point to ponder from Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats”.