How Can You Convince Your Boss to Innovate?

We are all stuck into our habits. In our private lives we drive the same car brand -, read the same newspaper – and are insured at the same company for years in a row. Why shouldn’t we?

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. This wonderful quote of Leon C. Megginson is still so relevant.

Most of us work at pretty conservative companies, earning profits with products or services we introduced years ago. Of course we improve them. But a faster changing world confronts us iwith the fact that in the long run we cannot survive on doing the same things better and cheaper. Sooner or later there will be a market meltdown. Just remember ‘golden oldies’ like: the phone book, retail travel agencies, printed books, the fax machine or the pager. The challenge is how to get innovation on the management agenda. How do you convince your boss?

Innovation is doing different things. Going into new territories. Using new techniques. It is a paradox for most of us. On the one hand you are well aware that you have to take new roads before you reach the end of the present dead end street. On the other hand it is risky. It takes a lot of time and resources. Research shows that only one out of seven innovation projects is successful. So saying yes to innovation is a risk.

Do you want to invest your personal savings in a project with a 1 out of 7 chance that it will be successful? Probably you won’t, unless you have to.

I like to quote the CEO of BMW AG, the German luxury car producer, Dr.-Ing. Norbert Reithofer. When asked why BMW started the risky E-car project with the BMWi-3 and i-8 he responded very honest: “Because doing nothing was even a bigger risk” [Autoweek 41-2013].

Your shareholders, board and bosses will only stick out their necks for innovation if doing nothing is a bigger risk. So you can break the status quo and create momentum for innovation by making them nervous that doing nothing is indeed a big risk. How? Identify the key persons in your company and confront them personally with concrete reasons for change that will move them out of their comfort zone.


1. Take them to visit start-ups challenging your position.
2. Invite a trend watcher to confront them how quick the world is changing.
3. Visit ex-customers who just changed to a very innovative competitor.
4. Take them to Tech Universities to see experiments with new technologies.
5. Spam them with articles of new successful business models;
Visit young customers and ask what they think of your brand and – products.

Your boss will say yes to innovation as soon as he/she gets the insight that doing nothing is an even bigger risk.

Go for it! Wishing you lot’s of success

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Gijs van WulfenGijs van Wulfen helps organizations to structure the chaotic start of innovation as author, speaker and facilitator. He is the founder of the FORTH innovation method and author of the innovation bestseller The Innovation Expedition. He was chosen by LinkedIn as one of their first 150 Influencers.

Gijs van Wulfen




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