How to Sell Innovations Up the Ladder
Have you ever had a great idea that ultimately went nowhere because you didn’t have the time, energy, resources, or support to put it into practice? You’re not the only one.
Unfortunately, in manufacturing, this is a common scenario. Myriad great ideas get stifled before they even have a chance. The reason? Many employees can’t, won’t, or don’t know how to pitch them to management. Instead, they let their great idea become a fleeting thought. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
Great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time
You don’t need to be a plant manager to be a great thinker. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for lower-level employees to have their voices heard, regardless of industry.
Manufacturers must embrace change if they want to compete in a global marketplace, and sometimes that means adopting new, unexpected ideas. Producers must foster an innovative manufacturing culture open to those ideas if they want to be adaptable and amenable to positive change. That means listening at every level, and being willing to entertain ideas from outside the traditional management echo chamber.
Propose a new idea with confidence
Have a great idea, but aren’t sure how to sell it up your company’s chain of command? Start by thinking like one of the higher-ups to get inside their heads. By understanding their concerns and recognizing what could tip the scales in your favor, you can approach new ideas and suggestions effectively. In addition, consider using the following strategies:
- Approach the right people. Sometimes, your boss isn’t the best person to help get your idea or change in motion. While it’s never advisable to sidestep management, think about people in your workplace who would be concerned the most with your idea so when you approach your boss, you can also suggest talking with these people for consensus.
- Create a cost/benefit analysis. Once you’ve identified the right people to approach with your idea, influence their perspective by outlining the problem your idea solves, and what it currently costs. Detail the solution you’re proposing and its benefits, and try to deliver a bottom-line ROI in dollars and cents.
- Consider potential challenges. Before suggesting your winning idea to your boss, think about potential challenges to execution. In many cases, thinking about obstacles can strengthen your case. Discuss how people and budgets could shift to support your idea, without putting stress on other areas of the company. Always highlight how your suggestion fits in with company culture and values and why your boss should support it.
A culture of innovation fosters company-wide benefits
Despite its many benefits, innovation rarely comes from below in most businesses — including the manufacturing space. But it’s not always the fault of upper management. Manufacturers must foster an open company culture that encourages participation and innovation from everyone, from operators on the factory floor to decision makers in the boardroom.
Provide opportunities, time to propose and discuss their ideas, and maybe even offer incentives and rewards to keep the whole team engaged and always looking for better ways to achieve company goals.