Advertising
Advertising

9 Ways to be Innovative When Your Boss Isn’t

9 Ways to be Innovative When Your Boss Isn’t
    From thinkpanama on flickr

    A common complaint that I hear when I run innovation workshops is this, ‘I have plenty of really creative ideas but my boss just isn’t interested in trying anything new. What can I do?’ Let’s leave aside the possibility that this view is itself distorted and take it at face value. It is a tricky situation that most of us will experience at some time. What can be done? Here are some approaches that can prove helpful:

    1. Understand his objectives and motivations.

    Selling an idea is like selling any other product. You have to understand the needs, motives and priorities of the customer. What are your boss’s ‘hot buttons’? What are the issues that really worry hime or her? Is they motivated by pride, ego, money, career advancement, power, recognition or do they want an easy life?  If you can discover their goals and motivations then you can try to present your idea in a way that plays to them. Stress the outcomes of the idea that will help him or her in one or more of these fields.

    Advertising

    2. Understand his decision making style

    How does your boss make decisions? Does he prefer numbers, reference from trusted sources, evidence of proof elsewhere, avoidance of risk, logic or emotion? Does he make quick decisions or does he like to chew things over for a while?

    A recent article in Harvard Business Review by Williams and Miller identified five different styles of decision maker. If you know which style fits your boss then you can tailor your message to give it the best chance of success.

    Advertising

    3. Align your idea with corporate objectives

    It will help if you can show that your idea fits with current corporate objectives. Show clearly that the suggestion will benefit the larger organization.

    4.  Choose the right time

    Don’t barge into your boss’s office at the end of a hectic day and buttonhole him with your great idea. Chances are he will simply say no.  Instead ask him for some time to discuss an important issue and mention the benefit. “Can you spare 20 minutes first thing tomorrow morning to review an idea to significantly improve departmental productivity?” Don’t give the idea away now – you need his full attention to cover it properly.

    Advertising

    5.  If he is risk averse sell risk avoidance

    Sell the benefits of the idea and try to match them to his needs and priorities. Show that you have thought about the risks, costs and downsides. If your boss if risk averse then stress the risks of not implementing the idea. “If we don’t seize this opportunity now, other departments could step in ahead of us and gain an advantage.”

    6. Don’t ask for approval, ask for suggestions

    With some bosses it is better not to present a fully formed plan but simply to introduce the concept and ask for his input and advice. Do this if he prefers to discuss things and shape them rather than review and approve. This way you can let him form his version of the idea and claim the credit. You will have the quiet satisfaction of knowing that it came from you.

    7. Build a coalition of supporters

    With some ideas it is better to gain some initial support before asking for approval. Who do you need on your side to help push the idea through? Have a chat with them first.

    Advertising

    “I checked with Betty in IT and with Bob in HR and they agreed that we can resource this if it is approved.”

    8. Try the company suggestions scheme

    If your boss shows no interest (and probably never will) then you can always try the official suggestions scheme. The evaluator may see the merit of the idea. In any event it is registered and that means it can be discussed in the open.

    9. Build it anyway

    This is the ultimate act of confidence and bravado. Do it in your own time as a ‘skunk works’ project and then you can demonstrate the prototype to garner support. Present it as a fait accompli and boldly shrug off any notions that it needed prior approval.

    There is considerable evidence that middle managers block innovations. So if you want your idea to succeed you will need a clever way of gaining approval. Don’t give up; your organization needs innovators!

    More by this author

    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

    Face Adversity with a Smile How to Win an Argument – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics How to Get Rich: 11 Bold Moves That Guarantee Wealth How to be a Brilliant Conversationalist Think Laterally

    Trending in Communication

    1 11 Red Flags in a Relationship Not To Ignore 2 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck 3 Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating 4 7 Simple Ways To Be Famous In One Year 5 How To Feel Happier (10 Scienece-Backed Ways)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

    Advertising

    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

    Advertising

    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

    Advertising

    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

    Advertising

    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

    Read Next