How to Convince Your Boss to Invest in Innovation

To invest in innovation is to invest in your employees.                                                                                                              

Carter Liebscher|
March 16, 2021

While you may know the myriad benefits of an internal innovation program, receiving leadership buy-in can be a challenge. Here are some of the incentives you can forward to your boss so your organization can get more competitive and improve your bottom line.

Year after year, companies invest more and more in innovation. In 2020, Samsung spent $14.9 billion on R&D, Intel $12.5 billion, and Apple $10.7 billion. These are large organizations with large budgets, of course, but even small- and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) can—and should—follow suit.

It’s known that innovation is a key determinant of long-term growth, and by virtue of SMEs being smaller than larger firms, they’re more likely to adopt cutting-edge organizational practices. As a result, SMEs have greater innovative potential than expansive organizations, from developing new internal processes to bringing new products and services to market.

As you could guess, budget is the main blocker of innovation within SMEs. Despite believing and even participating in radical innovation efforts, SMEs simply lack the financial resources to enact real transformational change.

Some company leaders also believe that their employees don’t have the necessary skills to make their innovation efforts successful, even with sufficient funding. While 77% of CEOs find it difficult to find internal employees with the creative and innovative skills they want, we at Ideawake believe that the employee skills are there–it’s just a matter of organizations providing the time and space to listen and explore.

If you’re an employee with some managerial oversight—perhaps you’re a department head who recognizes your department’s potential or a mid-level manager wanting to enact some large-scale change one step at a time—here’s how you can prove the ROI of an innovation program to your boss.

Provide some success stories

One of the best ways to prove the validity of, well, anything really, is to provide historical context in the form of success stories.

The world is rife with innovation success stories. Post-it Notes, Amazon Prime, even Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: These are widely known, everyday products and services that were employee ideas that succeeded because each organization (3M, Amazon, and Frito-Lay, respectively) realized the potential of each project and explored it until proven viable.

Seeing how the best of the best invested in innovation and came out on top as a result is a solid first step to making the case for internal innovation.

Prove the short-term ROI…

Even after you share some success stories, though, you might receive some pushback.

“These are the best of the best stories from mature organizations. There are no short-term benefits for smaller organizations.”

Use our free ROI calculator to receive a direct quote on the financial impact of innovation at your organization

The short-term benefits of innovation, though, are clear, especially in regards to your organization’s culture. You receive:

  • employee insights that management hadn’t considered;
  • employee insights that management had considered but needed validation on;
  • spikes in productivity due to employees feeling greater ownership over their work; and
  • higher employee engagement rates overall for the same reason.

Connecting with employees across your organization—from customer service to legal to marketing—through internal innovation strengthens your collective mission, which is your product(s) and/or services. After all, those closest to a product or service have the best insight on how to improve it.

Even so, innovation in the short-term perhaps isn’t the best way to proposition innovation. That’s why you should prove the positive ROI of short-term innovation…

As Well as the Long-Term ROI

Reiterate that investing in innovation is investing in employees. Higher engagement rates mean greater productivity, which means greater (and higher quality) output in the things that directly improve your bottom line.

Your organization becomes more competitive when you start collecting and implementing competitive ideas. Fewer employees are leaving because they feel validated, reducing turnover and training costs. The smoothness of your organization’s inner machinations become visible from the outside, building your brand.

The investment you make in innovation pays itself in the short-term, and you reap the benefits in the long-term.

Put together a list of vendors and start demoing

Now that you’ve set the stage for what your organization can accomplish, research vendors that offer what you’re looking for. Capterra is a great first resource to start looking and compiling options.

Bringing a complete list of effective tools to your boss will show them that you’re serious about making it work at your organization. Even better is if you attend demos of your top picks with your boss or other stakeholders so you all get a first-hand look at what’s possible.

Plan your goals

Once you’ve explored all your options and ultimately made your pick, you should start mapping out your specific innovation use case for the platform. Are you looking for an employee ideation program? To help with continuous improvement? To host a hackathon-type event?

Luckily, planning your innovation goals is easy with Ideawake.

Our innovation experts will take your organization through a thorough implementation plan that covers your innovation readiness, how to customize and configure your platform, how to promote your plan internally, and more.

Are you ready to tap into the wisdom of your employees?

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