Getting startedMaking innovation pay-off

It takes more than a business case to get your innovation project approved

A business case is rarely sufficient to get your innovation project approved. Let alone that a business model canvas will do the trick. To get your innovation project off the ground, you will have to do more than creating a plan.

A business case is not sufficient

When you write your business case, you probably hope that your ideas will be fostered and held up high as the child in the picture.

Just like kids, innovation projects are investments in the future. However, unlike kids, your innovation project does not present itself as a cute little baby. Instead, to the decisionmakers, your plans probably resemble more a difficult to handle, disobedient, and stubborn teenager.

By proposing that things can be done smarter, better, or that opportunities are left laying on the table you are challenging the status quo.

So to get the business case for your innovation project accepted, you will have to provide more than just a plan to get funding.

Your organization has to invest in you and your project. For that, the decisionmakers need to be confident that their investment in you will pay off. Your business case alone, won’t be able to accomplish that.

What more is needed?

At a minimum, your business case needs to explain what your project is about, what you will do, and how much money you will need. You need to have these basics right.

Some have said that the whole planning process is worthless because innovation lives in a dynamic world. We disagree. You still need to plan. But you need plans that can withstand change. What more you need to create a plan swiftly. If it takes you already six months to just write up what you plan to do, you will be running behind the facts throughout your innovation journey.

However, even when you create a plan quickly and write up a plan that can handle changes, such a description still will fail to provide management the confidence that they need to know that you and your team can pull this off.

For that, they not only need to be convinced that the idea is a good one, but they also need to trust that you are the right person(s) to carry out the job.

To be clear – we are talking about service organizations here – where the value add of any new product, service, process, or app is the human interaction that comes with it.

Show results first

So besides building your business case, you also have to build trust in the organization that you and your team deserve this investment and that you will make the most out of it for the organization.

How do you do that? By proving your worth from the beginning and delivering concrete results.

These results can be small things, like:

  • Open a shared drive/ Yammer session etc., to share knowledge and interesting sites, links, documents, videos, etc. about the topic
  • Organize brown bag lunch sessions for your department and colleagues to bring the issue to the forefront
  • Write whitepapers and blogs on about the opportunity and problems associated with it
  • Invite clients over to discuss the challenges together

Be careful with these last two actions. They are very powerful tools. Just be aware that you are leveraging your external network to make things happen within your own organization. When you use this tactic too often or use it without having a strong support base in your organization, it will work against you.

Establish your reputation while working on your business case

So no matter how good your plan, it will fall to deaf ears if you have not embedded it well into the organization and build your reputation alongside while building the business case.

So don’t only plan your project, but also make sure to take your organization along on your journey and do this all as rapidly as possible. Take maximum three to four months to get the suggested results delivered and your business case written.

Impossible? Unreasonable, because you have to do all of this next to your more-than-full-time job? Not really. We know it can be done, but you may want to sign up for a training program like T4 to help you get it done.

Success with getting your innovation project up and running! Because after all, the business case is just a means to an end.