"My problem is not how to be innovative. My team often comes up with interesting ideas. But when we introduce them to top executives, they always turn them down. How can I convince my boss to invest in our ideas?" The question — asked at the end of a seminar on innovation at a major IT firm — did not surprise me.
One of the hardest challenges for creative people — especially those working in units such as R&D, design, or marketing — is how to win top management's support for their ideas. Many feel that their proposals are killed not because they have poor potential but because their boss simply does not understand them or does not even listen to the presentation. They feel frustrated and dream of working with CEOs like Steve Jobs or Alberto Alessi, who often invest in breakthroughs.
The solution to this problem is to have your boss onboard long before the idea comes up. Top executives who successfully promote innovation hardly invest in unexpected breakthroughs. They are actively involved upfront. A former senior manager at PortalPlayer, a contractor that helped Apple develop the iPod, reported, "The interesting thing about the iPod is that since it started, it had 100% of Steve Jobs's time." The same is true at Alessi, the Italian company famous for the design of its home products. When breakthrough ideas arise, CEO Alberto Alessi is already there.