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Why Your Ideas Die
Re. Working for large organizations
The thing about working for big orgs is that they have lots of layers.
And these layers are there for many reasons, but one reason they’re NOT there for is saying “yes”.
Particularly, saying “yes” to your pet idea.
At least, not at first.
But that can be an advantage. With such a high intellectual mortality rate, the only ideas that survive are the ones you REALLY love, the ones your REALLY believe in enough to protect from all the sharp elbows and daggers, the ones that can grow with you over time.
It forces you to pick your battles VERY carefully, as opposed to putting your dukes up to every drunk sailor that comes staggering by.
It’s all about truly understanding the terrain you’re actually in, not just about how you’d prefer things to be.
That said, we’ve created a fun little device to subvert the system at Edwards Air Force Base, the “Summer of Waivers” is an exercise in forcing innovative ideas up the chain of command, so innovators can get their ideas seen and approved by the top brass; a forcing function for the organization.
We also just finished a project over at VMware, helping develop a new approach to socializing their massive innovation effort called RADIO. The problem is the same, you need a structure for innovation to grow, to take hold. The cultural norms are key, and establishing insights addressing risk, failure, why this all matters, etc., is essential.
In any case, even if your ideas are being seen, you do need to choose your battles carefully, innovators often walk around with targets on their back.