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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    “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!

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

    How to Get Rich: 11 Bold Moves That Guarantee Wealth How to win Arguments – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics How to be a Brilliant Conversationalist Think Laterally Write A Killer Resume In Seven Easy Steps

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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