How Do I Get My Boss to Buy In to My Innovative Ideas?

Last Updated Sep 9, 2010 6:15 AM EDT

You're young, enthusiastic and jam-packed with innovative ideas. The problem is your boss, who is old, stodgy and seemingly intent on shooting down your every suggestion. So how can you get your skeptical boss to open up to the possibility of changing how things are done?

Roberto Verganti, the author of Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean, recently addressed this issue on the HBR's The Conversation blog and offered one guiding principle -- involve your boss in the innovation process as early as possible. If he feels like he owns it, he (or she) is less likely to reject it. Verganti has four tips on how to accomplish this:

  • Get an endorsement to investigate a business challenge. For example, if you work in the R&D department of a food company, a challenge could be coming up with new products that are healthier and provide a better experience by eating less. It's more likely that you will gain support for investigating such a challenge than suddenly selling an idea for a new valuable cheese that people will buy in smaller quantities. So even if you already have an idea for solving a problem, don't immediately pitch it.
  • Design the innovation process together. Once you have top management's support to tackle the challenge, come to an agreement on how to come up with ideas for tackling it.
  • Update top executives frequently. Keep feeding them information on how the investigation is developing along the way. When you do so, don't talk about the emerging possible solutions; instead, provide information on how you are interpreting the challenge. In this way, executives will more easily grasp the solution once you present it.
  • Involve top executives in the creation of the solution. By doing so you will not only receive precious insights but also stronger support, because executives will feel they own the idea.
Of course, all this implies letting your boss take credit for the innovation once you've come up with it, at least in part, so Verganti asks, are you willing to sacrifice your ego to see some real change?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user brainware3000, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.