”Ideas cost money & I don’t have extra money lying around in the budget”

Jim got that response from his boss when he pitched an idea to automate an internal process that was time intensive & manual.  It highlights Yeah-But #2 – no budget for innovation.  Jim was one of my Gen Y interviewees sharing the good, bad & the ugly of  his corporate experience.

“I didn’t even get a chance to give details about my idea.  I was shut down before I even started”  Jim explained. “I didn’t even know if my idea would cost money or not but the answer was loud & clear. Ideas cost money.  But what if they saved money, too?”

Jim continued “At lunch, I told my friend, Neil, in finance, about my idea to see how much he thought it would cost. Neil liked the idea & could see how the solution could be used across the company.  He texted his friend in IT to ask him to meet us & brainstorm possible solutions.  John from IT, revealed that his team had worked on something similiar that could probably be tweaked to solve this issue in my team. We decided to work together & see if we could come up something using the tools the company already had in place.”

Excited about the possibility of pursuing an idea that could save his team a lot of time & money, Jim discovered that his idea it would not cost the company additional funds except for the time Jim, John &  Neil invested in it.   At the end of 2 months, they had automated & tested the new solution & Jim was ready to present the solution to his boss.

“My boss was blown away by the demo I gave him”. Jim explained.  “Even still he asked me 4 times if I was 100% sure this was not going to cost him money to implement.  I assured him the only thing it had cost us was our time & effort. He was skeptical right through the end.  He stopped being skeptical when he saw how much more efficient the team was with the new solution. He stopped when other teams saw the improvement and wanted to piggyback off the solution.  He stopped when the CEO praised him for the solution he almost shut down.

“I guess I was wrong about ideas costing money” Jim’s boss confessed. “They can  make money, too, if you give them a chance to sprout”.

Can you see yourself in Jim’s boss?  How many times have you not pursued an idea because of possible budget concerns? Did you try looking at creative solutions with what was already available in-house?

Sometimes we make things more complicated that they need to be.  The next time you find yourself shutting down an employee with a good idea because of cost implications, try this:

  • Listen to the idea & see if it has bottom line potential.  If it does, it is worth pursuing
  • Encourage the employee to come up with creative solutions if you have no budget to spare for seed money
  • Find ways to partner with other teams that the solution could benefit.  The effort & cost can be distributed among various departments instead of bearing the brunt of the cost yourself.

Don’t be shortsighted like Jim’s boss about trying out new ideas.  Innovation often just requires a creative way of seeing & using the tools, information, people & resources that you have at your disposal. All you need to do is give it a chance to sprout.