You dreamt up something completely new. It is so cool that people don’t even know they need it yet. But, like their iPad, once they try it, they’ll forget they ever had a life without it.
It was a fit for your line of business, so – with great hopes swelling in your chest – you brought it to your teammate, your manager, or even the Vice President of Innovation, and it got shot down before you even had a chance to explain the vision, or the strategy, or the compelling need it would serve.
You’re a grownup, and you can take rejection. But still, it grinds you. It’s one thing when people give an idea a fair shake, and maybe it doesn’t fly because one or the other decision-makers isn’t ‘in the know,’ but this time it was clear that they were simply ‘in the NO!’
What’s an innovator to do?
First identify the naysayer. Was it one of these usual suspects?
- Nano Teamer: This is the person who is so into ‘teamwork’ that they spend more time talking about it than doing it. A favorite expression: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” A frequent tendency: hanging around where things are ‘happening’ and taking credit for results that were actually produced by other people. Motivation: If it will make someone else look good, kill it.
- Mini Manager: There are managers who are team players, and there are managers who ‘play’ their team. The latter type prefers to be the source of all great ideas and all good will. Anyone else who dares to tread on that turf is regarded with suspicion, or worse, and will be dealt with severely.
- Inno Vader: Like Inno’s big brother Darth, he (or she) believes that the purpose of decision-making power is to punch the other person’s lights out. It’s ironic that some of the people who have ‘Innovation’ in their job title seem to be preoccupied with controlling innovation rather than facilitating it. It’s a little like the VC or Angel investor who thinks, ‘I have the money. Therefore, I get to decide because I’m smarter than you, entrepreneur!’
Second, consider whether or not the concept is worth pursuing at your present company.
- Is there someone in the organization who can be trusted help you shape up your plan so it can be re-presented?
- Is there an ‘open door’ policy further up the food chain? A ‘Department of Last Resort’? Or would running an ‘end-around’ just be a short cut to getting yourself a pink slip?
- Are there other reasons you’ve been looking elsewhere, and this most recent affront is feeling like ‘the last straw’? Perhaps it even seems that the stars are aligning that way, since recruiters have been calling you day and night with tempting offers.
Finally, make your decision, and follow your path.
- Is there enough potential commercial value and growth potential to enable you to attract seed capital?
- Can you build your own prototype during your off hours? Land a space in a business incubator? Get a grant?
- Are you sure you would not be violating any obligations to your present company? Would a top plaintiff’s attorney agree with you?
If you’re not confident in your ability to make it happen on your own, it’s OK to just ‘let it go.’ But you really should give some thought to finding a more collegial work environment!
Innovation is precious, and often fragile. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be the one who put the ‘no’ in innovation!
(This post originally appeared in InnovationDAILY)
Tomorrow is Independence Day. With organizations becoming increasingly global, the meaning of that day needs to change. I mean, it will never be much of an occasion for our friends in the UK. That would be too much like celebrating a divorce. And for many millions in other countries, July 4 may be no more notable than January 14 (Pongal, the Harvest Festival in India) is here in the US.
So I have a suggestion. Amidst the fireworks and barbeques honoring a victory long past, let’s celebrate the people who trek into uncharted territory to create a new vision: entrepreneurs!
Whether you think of yourself as one, or not, you may be more entrepreneurial than you think. Have you ever convinced a group of people to try something new? Dreamed about improving something? Had a burning desire to help others or to create a more glorious future? If so, you have the spirit of the entrepreneur in your blood, and you deserve to be celebrated.
In that spirit, you are similar to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who confirmed their intentions to each other, mutually pledging ‘our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor’ to the grand vision. This is also the pledge of the entrepreneur: to continue striving, and to do nothing half way.
As the hot dogs are passed around and the fireworks dazzle the waterfront, I will be celebrating the pledge I made eleven years ago, when The Gabriel Institute was founded. I hope that you will be celebrating yourself, too.