How To Pitch An Idea To Your Boss

Mike Hilton, Director of Venture Labs

Mike Hilton, Director of Venture Labs

Sep 2, 2020

When you have a groundbreaking idea for your company, what you do with that will determine if anyone listens to you.

First, let’s talk about what not to do; we call it the “Idea Dump”. Upon thinking of your brilliant gem, you could run straight to your manager and begin pontificating about the glorious, earth-shattering greatness that you’ve just discovered. This approach usually begins with “Hey Manager. I was thinking the other day, and we should really do X. What do you think?” It’s usually followed with, “Let me know what you want me to do.” Managers hate this approach, guaranteeing your potentially wonderful idea dies.

On the other (more effective) hand, if you spend time carefully nurturing your idea and answering a few basic questions, you’re much more likely to get the right people’s attention. Take these steps before talking to your manager:

  1. Do your homework. At the most basic level, if you cannot back up your idea with hard data, there’s no chance the company will care. Try to find both quantitative and qualitative information to support your idea. You likely can get access to all kinds of reports, surveys, and other information that already exists within the company.
  2. Test your idea. Even if your groundbreaking concept is massive and requires a huge budget, there’s a way to test the core components without taking risk. When presenting to your manager, it goes a long way if you can say that you found a way to test and learn from your new idea in a low-risk way.
  3. Know how your idea fits into the company strategy. All organizations have annual or multi-year strategic goals. All managers within the company exist to ensure that the company focuses on those goals. Therefore, if your idea is outside of those goals, you won’t get anywhere. Make sure you can communicate clearly to your manager how the new idea drives one of the goals forward. You get bonus points if you can project the results of your idea in dollars saved, dollars earned, or time saved.
  4. Know the next step. Let’s imagine you’ve done your homework and successfully presented your idea to your manager. You now have to answer, “What comes next?” Go ahead and make your boss’ life easier by suggesting the next few steps. Hint: it likely involves more testing on a deeper scale.
  5. Be ready for your idea to change. As soon as you take your proven, earth-shattering idea to other people, it now has a life of its own. You may stay closely involved with it, but other people now have the opportunity to influence it. Your idea will continue changing and growing over time, so don’t get disheartened when it shifts and changes as it grows.

At Venture Labs, we believe that everyone in an organization has the potential to come up with the next great idea, regardless of their position in the company. In fact, the best new ideas often come from the people on the front-lines with their hands dirty in the challenges every day. In order for that experience to translate into positive company change, those change-making employees have to nurture and present their ideas to management effectively.

We made a worksheet to help you flesh out your ideas and prepare to pitch them to your boss or superior.