You are an innovator – and you are proud to be an innovator. You pride yourself on listening to your customer’s desires and building products which do just that.
The only problem is: your customer’s job-to-be-done is not aligned with your company’s job-to-be-done. You’ve researched deeply – you’ve looked at the market – you’ve talked to your customers – you have an excellent idea of what they are looking for – you’ve investigated workarounds and customer pain points. You’ve developed an innovative new product (or product set) that should address your customer’s needs. You’ve even built and tested a proof of concept, and your prospective customers love it.
You put the deck together – analyze the business case – and everything looks good. You get ready for the big presentation where you pitch your new product to your leadership. You’re excited – you’ve got a ton of evidence, real customer stories, a solid business case, a great story, and even your deck looks great. All systems go, you think – there is no stopping you now.
You walk into that meeting – or fire up your Zoom – and share your screen. Then, you jump into your presentation – all hot and driven. This is a surefire pitch – everything lines up. Customers will love it, and your business case looks great. You are looking forward to building and launching this new product into the world. You can point to something your friends and family say – “I did that” or “This was my idea.” Professional and personal pride are on the line – but you are confident that your story is excellent and leadership will love it.
I think you can guess what happened next.
First, you dove into the deck, and your audience was bored. Not a few minutes into it, they asked about ROI. They kept hammering ROI. They wanted to know that if you launched this product today, how much could it make for the company. Not how much it would delight customers. Not how much it would impress analysts and investors. Not how much it would improve human lives. It would increase your corporate cred and attract the best talent.
No, all they cared about was ROI. The ROI of today, right now. Not the ROI of tomorrow, even beyond the profits themselves.
Despite the fact your story is excellent – it isn’t business as usual. It’s not the tried and proven what they are doing today. The what works. To them, even if it sounds great on paper, it’s dangerous and radical, and disruptive. If it’s not a simple extension of something they are doing today, they are not interested. It’s too much of a risk.
If this happens to you over and over – there is only one solution. Leave the company. Go somewhere where your story will be heard, where leadership is not afraid of the radical, dangerous, disruptive, and new. Maybe even strike out on your own and do a startup. Ironically, if you do this – your old company may decide to buy you back.
They don’t want to take the risk – they want YOU to take the risk. This is funny because they can endure the risk more than you are, being an existing likely profitable organization.
But what if you want to stay? The only way: stick with the unsexy, unrisky. Don’t be bold, don’t be disruptive, don’t go for the radical. Stick with the quick wins and the low-hanging fruit. Look at product extensions instead.
But then, are you really innovating?