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

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry and to the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on performance improvement. A respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, talent and employee engagement, she’s a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Michelle speaks and writes about what she knows first-hand – as a former executive of a Fortune 100 global conglomerate, and as a researcher and strategist. She passionately shares new insights and tools for leaders to confidently, effectively and strategically lead their organizations to success.

Michelle is the Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association. Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-m-smith-cpim-crp