Aimforthemoon’s Ángel Figueroa Mayordomo works with international leadership teams to build their internal innovation organization. Earlier in his career, when working for a top consultancy firm, he had an idea for a new product but it didn’t end well. In this article, Ángel shares his personal story and the 4 Ts for corporate innovation to support innovative ideas: Topics, Training, Tools, and Time.
If you kill ideas, kill them well.
The worse thing you can do is say: “We’re not going to do this” and leave it at that.
It happened to me. And it made me leave my job.
Let me take you back to 2014.
I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’ve been working as a consultant at a top consultancy firm for three years. The work is pretty good. I have challenging projects at leading companies within the telco industry.
My team and I are working on a program to launch a new product in several European countries. But we are struggling to keep the different program streams aligned, a communication issue I see coming back across projects.
So we look into different communication and project management tools that might help us, but none meet our particular needs. I see an opportunity to design a simple tool ourselves that would solve our communication issues.
I’m super excited about it and decide to create a clickable prototype in my free time. I go way above and beyond to make sure it shows how we can solve our issues.
I pitch it to the program lead at the client, who on the spot says he would sign a letter of intent to use the tool for an agreed yearly fee. It gives me a huge boost of energy to carry on.
I go ahead and get estimates for an MVP. The single client alone would cover 20% of the MVP’s cost, which, in my opinion, is pretty good news for the business case. The next thing I do is create a slide deck to pitch the idea to my firm’s key innovation stakeholders.
Which I do, and they kill it.
For some, a no is hard to digest
“It’s not clear who will be liable for the data. And it is not within our strategic focus, so don’t move forward with it.”
Period. That’s it. No further elaboration.
I feel my idea tackles many of the issues we discuss in the strategic meetings on how to innovate within our Operational Excellence practice. I have a pretty strong business case. And I have a launching client. Why is this not good enough? A startup team would have an MVP up and running in weeks! Why don’t we?
I feel demotivated. It doesn’t seem that there is much room to try something new. If I continue, I will be stuck doing the same repetitive work. And, as long as I make my hours, I will be doing a great job.
At first, I thought, oh well, let’s keep going. But I would soon realize that I needed to leave. I got a taste of the excitement of quickly working on new ideas, and I wanted to keep at it. So, I left the company to start my own.
Maybe it was just not the right time
Now, years later, when reflecting on this, I realize three things. One: I was too junior to grasp the company focus well enough to understand why my idea fell out of scope. Two: I didn’t know how to pitch my business idea. Three: Better guidance would have helped me cope with the ‘no’.
I wanted to share this topic here because I see some similarities with people participating in innovation programs like the ones I run. Some people require a bit more elaboration of the reasons behind investments to avoid the feeling that decisions are unjust. Others might need help to learn how to think like an investor. And others might need coaching on how to best pitch their business ideas.
4 Ts for corporate innovation
The moral of my story is that if you want to build a culture of innovation, don’t forget about the support system that needs to be in place to nurture entrepreneurial talent. Make sure you offer the 4 Ts for corporate innovation: Topics, Training, Tools, and Time.
Thank you for reading this.
My name is Ángel Figueroa Mayordomo, Head of Innovation Management at Aimforthemoon. Feel free to connect with me if you have an innovation challenge you would like to discuss.