Stealth Innovation

Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg in their HBR article The Case of Stealth Innovation talk about a potential path that innovators can take when they have an idea that they think is worth pursuing. They argue that though going to C-level executives with your idea is your best bet because if you are able to get support from them, you pretty much have everything available to you to go ahead. In the same breath they warn that if your idea is rejected by them, most probably because of the paucity of time or lack of attention, there is very little chance of your idea being accepted again. authors are talking more in the realm of human psychology and sure it plays a major role in decision making though it is usually underplayed in the logical corporate world. They suggest an approach where you do the ground work for your idea in a stealth mode, with a limited team and resources from internal budgets, and once the idea is demonstrable, share it with the people who matter. You probably have a much bigger chance of watching your ideas adopted by the organization. I loved their MTV example.

I only want to add that this can be one of the many approaches to approach innovation. When you follow this approach do not forget to take the political dynamics in your organization, in your senior management circles. If you are using resources without the consent of the people responsible, be prepared for a backfire.  The idea will be successful is no guarantee, do evaluate a scenario where you idea potentially fails, are you willing to face the music if it fails or if your actions are questioned.

I always think that each situation is so unique that you can never have any rights and wrongs. Wherever there are examples of the success of one kind of approach, there may be as many of it failure. Take a balanced approach, following your own intuition.

Anuradha Goyal