Have you ever shared new big ideas at work? What happened…? Did they give you a standing ovation? Did someone bake you a cake to celebrate? Did you get promoted? Or I am a little too optimistic?

Of course there are companies with a great culture for innovation where new big ideas are embraced by everyone. However, most of you were probably victims of the ‘Not-Invented-Here’ phenomenon. Your colleagues rejected your new idea because of unwillingness to value the work of others or fear through a lack of understanding. Although many people say they are entrepreneurial, in practice they are adverse to risks. You probably got some idea-killer-questions fired at you like:

  • Yes, but…
  • Our customers won’t like that!
  • We don’t have time…
  • NO!
  • It’s not possible…
  • It’s too expensive!
  • Let’s be realistic…
  • That’s not logical…

Innovation is a paradox for most of us. On the one hand, you are well aware that you have to take new roads before you reach the end of the present dead end street. On the other hand, it is risky. It takes a lot of time. And it takes a lot of resources. Research shows that only one out of seven innovation projects is successful. So saying yes to innovation is a step into the unknown.

…think outside the box and present inside the box.

As innovator you can fight this risk-adverse culture, as a kind of modern Don Quixote fighting windmills. Or you can accept it. Only when you accepted it, you can deal with it. Managing innovation has everything to do with managing expectations and reducing risks. I can give you five tips that might get you more support for innovative ideas.

  1. Dogs bark at what they don’t know. So beware of this. Make clear in advance what kind of innovative ideas they can expect (a small improvement or revolutionary new to the world idea).
  2. Make clear “what’s in it for us”. So present your innovative idea with a concrete case for new business showing estimates of sales and profit potential.
  3. Make the feasibility clear. Can we make it? What will it cost?
  4. Make clear there’s a market out there. Lead users and co-creation partners are perfect advocates to prove there’s a potential market.
  5. Invite top managers on your innovation journey from the start. In this way they can get new insights themselves and they will be owners of those great ideas too.

I’ve made a practical format for what I call a mini new business case, which is a handy tool to create internal support. The purpose is to substantiate, in a businesslike and convincing manner, to what degree and for what reason your idea for a new product, service or business model is attractive and feasible for your organization. It consists of seven slides:

  1. The customer friction (customer situation, the customer need, customer friction);
  2. Our new concept (target group, marketing mix of the new concept, new for….);
  3. This makes the concept unique (buying arguments for the customer, market positioning);
  4. It will be feasible (we are able to develop – and to produce it, development process);
  5. What’s in it for us (number of customers, estimated additional turnover and – profits);
  6. Why now? (why develop it now; if we don’t do it, then….);
  7. Decision (why further, uncertainties and follow-up team, process and planning).

Download the format of the mini new business case.

It all starts with accepting that it is quite common that your colleagues and managers fear innovation. So think outside the box and present inside the box. Be innovative and act conservative. That’s the way to get internal support for your big ideas.

I wish you successful innovation expeditions!

By Gijs van Wulfen

About the author

Gijs van Wulfen (1960; Dutch) is a keynote speaker, author and trainer on innovation and design thinking. He is the founder of the FORTH innovation method and LinkedIn Influencer. In his books, posts and speeches Gijs likes to make a complex theme like innovation simple. Check out