The next stage is to consider how these ideas might be implemented by your organization. Step one is to think about how to pitch your best idea. Look at the top ideas and say to yourself as the leader, “These are great ideas—how can we execute them?”
The following questions will help you get to your answer:
- Can we get our teams passionate about working on this idea?
- Do we have the skills and abilities to do this?
- Can I get senior management on board with this?
Senior executives are show-and-tell. In other words, you need to supply information to support the good ideas, but you also have to show them that people will care on an emotional level. So before you select the final two or three ideas that you are going to fully develop and present, ask yourself whether this idea is one that you’re going to be able to create some sizzle with and get people excited about? Will you be able to create a vision that people are going to fall behind and want to be a part of?
These questions are about the potential difficulties of selling the idea internally. It’s important to know that I don’t ask all groups these questions. These questions can be very politically sensitive, and asking them to the wrong mix of people can provoke arguments and problems. You need to use your own judgment about whether asking these questions helps your group or will derail it.
You as the leader need to make the call as to which two or three ideas should be pitched to senior management. Before doing so, the ideas need to be turned into a proposal. Take the best ideas and assign teams to each idea, and set deadlines for when the pitch needs to be ready. Give the team clear guidelines on the structure of the pitch.
Pitch Your Best Idea
Keep the pitch simple, and build it around the Guy Kawasaki Rule of 10/20/30: 10 slides, 20 minutes, nothing smaller than 30-point font. Remember that you are telling a story; you want a spokesperson who can bring the idea to life and get people excited. Practice pitching the idea before you take it to senior management, and fine-tune your pitch depending on the feedback. Include the plan that shows what you can realistically convince your management to invest. You have to think through what the executive uses as decision criteria before you make the pitch.
Pausing an Idea
As an outcome from the workshop, you may find that one or more of the ideas may be great but the timing isn’t right. The customer isn’t ready, the technology doesn’t quite exist, or the organization isn’t ready for the change. Pausing is a good option. Take those ideas that ranked high but for which the timing wasn’t right, and place them on a list that you come back to on a regular basis. When the timing is better, it’s time to pitch them to the organization. The key is to capture and track the ideas that come out of this and future workshops. This “idea management” step is one that is commonly overlooked. As I mentioned when discussing what happened to my friend David, in typical brainstorming sessions a final e-mail is sent around and nothing happens, momentum is lost, and good ideas go to waste. You can’t let this happen to you. If you organize and run your innovation workshop as I describe, you will have a ranked list of ideas that, if used, will create an innovation funnel for your organization.
Here’s one final thought before you go into the meeting to pitch your best idea. I’ve been at HP for nine years, and over my tenure here I’ve launched twelve fundamentally new products. Each one of these launches was as much of a battle as the first; it never gets easier. In fact, I think that if it becomes easy, it means you aren’t doing your job. Why? Because if it’s easy, it means that you aren’t giving people anything new enough to elicit that initial reaction of resistance and fear. This process is never easy; don’t beat yourself up if you find that getting a great idea to the execution stage is exhausting, hard work. If it’s a great idea, most people’s gut reaction will be to push back against it. Persevere.