Mon, Mar 14, 2011
You have great ideas, but how do you get your employer to implement them? Whether it’s a cool mobile app, a new social media strategy, or a Website redesign, many ideas stall in the approval process or get shot down by management—and this can be extremely frustrating for innovators.
John Ellett, CEO of nFusion, says that many creative people in this position simply throw their hands up and say, “The boss is clueless.” But, he adds, it’s important to look at things from the boss’s perspective. This was the gist of the panel discussion Ellett led on Saturday at 2011 SXSW Interactive, Getting Your Breakthrough Ideas Approved by Decision Makers.
Of course, Ellett notes, there’s always a chance that your boss actually is clueless—in which case, your first job is to educate him or her. For example, if you have a boss who doesn’t use an iPhone, you’re not going to be able to get him to understand the value of an iPhone app unless you educate him about other mobile-app success stories.
“Be creative,” he says. “Don’t just try to explain what Foursquare is; show them in an appealing way. They’re kids at heart, too.”
Here are 4 things to think about when approaching your boss with your breakthrough:
But more likely, your boss is cheap—or, in other words, “bottom-line-oriented.” Ellett stresses that a mistake many creative thinkers make at work is presenting great ideas but not presenting them in the language of business. They don’t talk about ROI.
Panelist Nicole Cochran, Marketing Director for Chili’s Bar and Grill, says that when you present that huge, innovative idea, it’s important to define a real business objective. Avoid what she calls “shiny-object syndrome”—being so anxious to jump on a hot trend or break out on a cool new medium that you neglect to prepare a business case. She says, “Ask yourself, ‘Does it drive sales?’”
Howard adds that another key to getting ideas approved is getting cross-functional buy-in. Think of the other departments that will be affected by your idea, and ask them for feedback (and listen to that feedback). People in other departments will likely have information that will not only improve your idea but also help you make your case.
It’s important, too, to act on feedback you get from higher-ups. Sometimes, even great ideas need a bit of tweaking—and you may not need to take no as a final answer.
Howard describes her team at Dell.com as an “internal creative agency” and her role as getting approval from one big client, Dell. And in a situation when you’re dealing with clients, she says, it’s great when a client starts presenting ideas as their own. When you’ve done that, you’ve been successfully persuasive.
When you do the hard work of market research, you may find that you need to make some changes to your original notion. And that’s where many people misstep—they do the research to support a business case but then disregard that research when it’s time for development, because they discover that the research and the original idea don’t quite jibe.
Then, say the panelists, there is one more fatal flaw: over-promising and under-delivering. It’s important to prepare—and to prepare higher-ups for—glitches, so that they don’t overreact to small setbacks.
Andrew Runyon, Director of Digital Marketing and Publicity for The Walt Disney Studios, sums up the panel’s key point nicely. He says, “We get a lot of people coming to us and saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?’ But they overlook Disney’s key objective: Get people in movie-theater seats. Great ideas have to support that objective.”