How to Introduce New Ideas: From the Drawing Board to the Boardroom


With the advent of crowd-funding and social media marketing, it has become easier than ever to secure capital for a great idea. While this is often the domain of entrepreneurs and startup founders, even large corporations have realized the highly fluid nature of innovation in the digital age. Companies are creating in-house startup accelerators or encouraging employees to spend time each day brainstorming on things they are passionate about in the hopes that the next big innovation might be born out of those daydreams. Howard Anderson, author of Why Big Companies Can’t Invent, shares in an article on Fast Company,

“…it’s hard to innovate when you are on top because all of your natural instincts urge you to preserve that status quo… [But big companies can] replicate the environment of entrepreneur-led startups, which by their very nature have the inherent potential for invention and dramatic growth.”

The prime examples of innovation in a major corporate setting are clear — both Apple and Google manage to stay on the cutting edge despite their size. So how can other large companies frame the search for innovative ideas in a productive and compelling way?

During our accelerator program sessions, we've seen it proved again and again that a great idea just isn't enough — at least, it's not the key ingredient to success. Once you've had a breakthrough, you have to be able to communicate your vision in an effective and compelling way. This is a difficult task in the startup space, but in a corporate environment with a highly structured, bureaucratic approach to innovation, there are additional challenges. That's why we've compiled these tips to help you take your great idea from the drawing board to the boardroom:

Consider Your Organization's Goals

While your idea may be revolutionary, that’s not going to matter if it doesn’t help accomplish your organization’s goals or align with the company mission and brand. This can be a hard pill to swallow, but if kept top of mind, it can save you a lot of time. When innovating on behalf of a larger entity, don’t let tunnel vision take you down the wrong path. Remember to consider the big picture and how your idea will contribute before moving forward. Then, when you're pitching to the higher-ups, start off with how you can add value to the status quo before you attempt to disrupt it.

Use Visual Imagery To Communicate

As Anett Grant writes in 4 Strategies For Introducing New Ideas At Work

"Part of the difficulty of introducing a new idea is ensuring that your audience understands just what it is you’re trying to get across. Given how much thought you’ve put into your idea, it can be frustrating when someone else isn’t getting onboard and doesn’t see the value or even understand what you mean."

One great way to help people understand the value of your idea is to represent it visually. While some people process ideas verbally, many others need a visual component to help connect the dots. A presentation that includes compelling images will help you communicate effectively with a wide variety of people.

Be Patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a large organization can't turn on a dime. You need to have patience, especially if you are involving multiple levels of management in a decision-making process. Push too hard too soon and you run the risk of seeming desperate or insecure. As Grant writes,

"Remember: Big ideas equal big risk. Introduce your idea with conviction, but not fervor."

Have confidence in your plans and give them time to grow.

Play a Long Game

Despite how passionate you might be, not everyone is going to be as excited to implement change as you are. When bringing a potentially risky development to an already successful organization, expect to make some early compromises. The more flexible you can be, the better chance you have to effect incremental change. Once your idea has proven itself, you'll have an easier time introducing additional components and implementing the entirety of your vision.

Whether you're in the startup space of the corporate world, innovation is an invaluable contribution. You'll set yourself up for success if you remember that a great idea can go a long way, but the key to effective implementation is in how you present that innovation to your organization.

How do you effectively introduce new ideas at work? Share your story with us @SparkLabKC!