6 Ways The Best Leaders Innovate and Bring Great Ideas To Life

Ideas are incredibly valuable assets for leaders and for organizations.

One of the most effective competitive strategies you can leverage is to improve your products or services. Often, this is easier said than done, and even when you are successful, you’re challenged with achieving innovative, breakthrough results on a continual basis to remain at the forefront of your industry.

But innovation only occurs as the result of people being able to bring ideas to life.

Wanted: a compelling argument

Sadly, research shows 52 percent of employees are frustrated at work because leaders don’t support their ideas or empower their creativity. Managers and employees who present new ideas often get no response at all from their leaders, or receive dismissive versions of how unrealistic or expensive it is, or why it can’t be done, or how it’s been tried before and failed.

Doctors Jackie and Kevin Freiberg don’t buy into the assumption that leaders aren’t interested. Instead, they suggest we think through why our senior leaders aren’t responding or why they’re so quick to say “no.” Perhaps we haven’t presented a compelling enough argument for the idea?

It’s up to us to take personal responsibility for our ideas and build a feasible business case for them. The Freibergs suggest the following strategies to help us advance our suggestions up the corporate ladder.

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Six strategies to bring your ideas to life

  1. Make it practical. Ideas can be vague. Show examples, create a prototype; get customer input on the viability of your idea. Make your idea visual – to see is to believe.
  2. Show customer benefit. Capture customer concerns, frustrations and suggestions, show how your idea/innovation will provide a solution. Get customers to buy into a trial or a focus group dedicated to your idea and document their experiences.
  3. Find co-partners or collaborators. Innovations are challenging – look for possible partners to co-develop your idea. If it’s too complex for your organization or your team to tackle on your own, do your research and get to know the subject matter experts in other functional areas. Reach across functional boundaries and tap into the talents of others. At the very least, you’ll grow your knowledge, network and reputation during the process.
  4. Invite your leader to co-own the initiative. Innovations are typically team efforts that are best led by passionate improvement co-champions. Do the work but give your leader co-credit. Supporting and accelerating an idea through a deeply rooted corporate culture requires lots of champions.
  5. Build a business case for your idea. New ideas often need to demonstrate ROI. Show how your idea reduces costs, improves a process, increases efficiency, adds value, builds your brand, increases retention, or helps the organization achieve its goals.
  6. Timing is everything. Just because the idea is top of mind for you doesn’t mean it’s timely for your leader. Once you’ve created a business case, have identified go-to resources and possible collaborators, gained customer input, and linked your idea to the goals of the organization, then carefully think through timing. Schedule a time to share your business case when your leader is focused and distractions are minimized.

The post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on OCTanner.com

Michelle M. Smith

A highly accomplished international speaker, strategist, and author on performance improvement; Michelle is a respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, employee engagement and talent. She’s published and presented more than 1,100 articles and lectures and is a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and governments.

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished industry leader who has worked in every facet of recognition and incentives, both domestically and internationally.

She has appeared on Fox Television and the BBC, and been featured in magazines like Fortune, Business Week, Inc., and Return on Performance; as well as national radio programs, and contributions to the books “Bull Market” by Seth Godin, “Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk,” and “Social Media Isn’t Social.”

Michelle is President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association and Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University. She’s Vice President, Research for the Business Marketing Association and serves on the Boards of the Incentive Federation and the Incentive & Engagement Solutions Council. She was also the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine.


LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/michelle-m-smith-cpim-crp/5/b00/368