How to Implement Innovative Ideas

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It’s ironic that the global economy is founded on and driven by innovation, yet within many organizations innovation from anywhere but the most obvious quarters is neither sought nor sanctioned. In fact, it’s not unusual for innovative ideas to run head-on into direct opposition. To sell and implement your innovative idea, you’ll need to make a strong case and carefully build support at all levels of your organization.

  • Overcome all practical obstacles. Three formidable and common hurdles are indifference, hostility and isolation. In many companies, top executives might tout innovation. But they do little to promote it. Some don’t settle for indifference. They actually oppose innovation by reacting negatively to any new idea brought their way, notes Bloomberg Businessweek. They can even be overtly hostile. Given such challenges, you can easily feel isolated if you have a passion for a new idea. To overcome your isolation and frustration, make your innovation a team effort.

  • Get top-down support. Regardless of what else happens, if your CEO and other top executives do not support your innovation, it won’t go very far. Solicit feedback from your management team based on a brief, clear written explanation of your idea. Review their feedback carefully to look for nuances that can be exploited as supportive and references that might reflect underlying concern or even opposition. Once you get their support, inform them that a detailed proposal will soon follow.

  • Get bottom-up support. Although top management support is critical, so is support from your peers, colleagues and coworkers – especially those who will be impacted by your innovation. Ask them to clearly spell out the practical benefits to them of your idea and how it will enhance their performance and the organization’s bottom line. Pay special attention to anyone who might oppose you later and get them on board now.

  • Analyze and document the risks. All practical attempts at innovation involve risk. Some, such as New Coke years ago or the new GAP logo that was rejected by a customer revolt in 2010, lead to disaster. Maximize your credibility by outlining key risks and explaining how they can be reduced or eliminated.

  • Put it in writing. Avoid letting your idea get tossed around verbally and informally. Create a formal written proposal that includes benefits, risks and requirements for implementation. Think of it as more of an essay than a report. Open with a thesis, or fundamental argument, and close with a restatement of your key points. State simply and clearly how your idea will improve the bottom-line performance of your organization. Build your argument on facts instead of theories. Draw common-sense conclusions anyone can understand. Anticipate logical questions and address them.

  • Sell it to the group. Once your written proposal has been reviewed by all stakeholders, ask for a formal meeting that includes all levels of management, down to the rank-and-file people who will be most impacted by your innovation. Ask your CEO or another top executive to open the meeting by clearly stating support for your idea. That will motivate people to listen a little better.

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