9 Elements to Successfully Pitch an Idea

Everyone involved with innovation is in sales. Anytime a push for a change occurs, someone has to sell the change to those who are tied to the status quo. In the innovation world, those resisting the change are referred to as corporate anti-bodies. And just like in biology, the anti-body is trying to kill off what is perceived as a threat. As a result, pitching the changes and pitching them well becomes critical. The changes in the context of innovation come in the form of new ideas. Selling ideas is similar to selling products and services but there are important differences. Ideas are intangible. Selling an intangible idea, something that has yet to take form requires an easy and consistent idea pitch.

The idea pitch often occurs in two forms, verbal and written, depending on the audience. Aligning both forms so the idea pitch ensures consistency. It also helps the seller collect and organize their thoughts. Working the idea through the One Page Idea Pitch Template not only helps with the organization of thoughts, helping to alignment both the verbal and the written presentations, but also produces a quick and easy reference for the people receiving the pitch.  Download the template for free using the form to the right of the article.

Idea Pitch

There are nine elements in an idea pitch.
1. The One Line Pitch: In one sentence, describe the problem, solution and target market. This is similar to an elevator speech.
2. Problem to be Solved: Describe the problem or challenge. Leverage a Challenge Map for determining the correct problem.
3. The Idea: Describe the idea to solve the problem.
4. Idea Benefits: Describe three (3) benefits the idea has in solving the problem that is new, unique or something not tried before.
5. Target Market: Describe who will benefit from the idea/solution. This may be internal organizations or external customers.
6. Competition: Describe how other competitors currently handle the same challenge. Also describe how this idea is better than the competition.
7. The Request: Describe what is needed to move the project forward in regards to funding, resources, research, prototypes, etc.
8. Future Milestones: Assuming the previous request is granted, what is the estimated timeline and major milestones to show progress towards a final solution or product?
9. Additional Info: Add any additional information that supports the idea to move forward.

The sections above tell the “story” of the idea. The One Page Idea Pitch Template is useful for developing a “sales pitch” for the new idea and presenting it to management for consideration. This is not a business case, business plan or business model. Those require more detailed information and are leveraged in different ways. This is a pitch of the idea, selling the change perceived to move things forward.

Strategies to Execute an Idea

Innovation is more than coming up with great ideas.   The ideas need to be implemented and that can be a challenge. These challenges become all too real upon entering the commercialization process. This is the part of the process where the ideas are executed, worked, refined, tested, etc.   All the things needed to make the idea a value creating tangible.  Execute an idea properly is critical for success.

Jumping the hurdle of idea to execution is difficult, much like “crossing the chasm” as described by Moore for an adoption curve. Not being aware and vigilant at this particular part of the process can throw a project off track if not bring it to a complete halt. The idea can fall into the chasm. Fortunately, with awareness, focus and a few activities, ideas enter the commercialization portion of the process and mature to full products, services, business models, etc.

Jump Ideas to Execution

As mentioned before, the execution of ideas can be challenging. It may be the hardest part of the innovation process. Management focus on all the moving parts in this section of the process is key to the success of the project. Watch, review, communicate, and adjust, adjust, and adjust as needed. A concentrated push is required to move an idea to a viable and value creating entity such as a new, profitable product.

What makes it so hard?

With every innovation, some amount of experimentation is required, and with experimentation comes uncertainty. The uncertainty carries with it risk of failure. This can be scary for some organizational cultures.

Assumptions around the innovative idea are being testing in this part of the process. Some tests pass, some tests require taking a step back and reformulating the approach.

Organizational antibodies come out in at this point in the process. Innovation requires internal change. Some will resist the change.

Some organizations lack the ability to commercialize their ideas.

The business team who comes up with the ideas is typically not the ones executing it. Therefore a transition to the execution team is needed.

Strategies for Success

Focusing on the following actions assist in ensuring the project stays on course and successfully enters commercialization:

  • Identify the breakthrough new-product ideas.
  • Prioritize innovation ideas and projects according to business & innovation strategy.
  • Generate & update an accurate, relevant roadmap.
  • Ensure project prioritization & roadmap remain align with business strategy.
  • Refer back to the “Voice of the Customer” throughout the commercialization process.
  • Acknowledge that testing & prototyping is iterative and communicate the results.
  • Launch a change management effort to address the corporate antibodies who are attempting to maintain the status quo.
  • Support a robust project management and/or product development process and development teams.
  • Involve the idea originators in the transition.

A line of sight back to the business strategy is one key component to achieve positive results. This cannot be emphasized enough. The strategy directs the actions throughout the process. Leveraging the business strategy as a guide helps ensure the project is aligned with the business vision and will ultimate achieve the initial goals set by the innovation program. Without the guide of the strategy, the resulting product may be innovative but may not satisfy the customer’s needs or the problem it was attempting to solve.

Coming up with a great idea is only part of innovation. Innovation is more inclusive, incorporating the entire process from generating the idea to creating value, often by selling a profitable product or service. Along the way, there are spots where extra vigilance is required, namely jumping the chasms in the adoption curves. But there exist an additional jump when one attempts to execute an idea. These potholes exist in the road of making a new idea reality. Knowing where the potholes are and how to best maneuver around them can help so that the project does not hit one of the potholes, get a flat tire, run off the road and stop in the ditch.

Business Model Innovation in 4 Steps

Things are changing and no one is immune.   In some industries, the change is happening at breakneck speed. Think about products or services that did not exist a few years ago that now are taken for granted. Uber is one that quickly comes to mind for me.   Airbnb is another example. But are they providing a new service or did they find a different way to make money from an existing service? Regardless, it is safe to say they found a new business model that took off, and as a result they are making a lot of money.

Startups are not the only companies that can roll out new approaches to do business. Established companies can do this as well, and by doing so, they can also disrupt the traditional ways of doing day-to-day business.   One challenge that existing companies have to tackle is the prevailing assumptions of how to make money in their respective industry.   There are long-standing beliefs, assumptions, and constraints, often unspoken, about value creation in each industry. Those beliefs become ingrained into the corporate culture, especially if the company has been successful in the past with the current model, the proverbial “If-It-Ain’t-Broken, Don’t-Fix-It” mentality.

It is these set assumptions about the industry where startups are finding advantages. However, existing companies have an advantage over the startups in that they are already playing the game and are familiar with the players.   Being willing to take another look at the business models, challenging the status quo, and thinking differently, the advantage tips back to the existing company. It can be done and it is not as painful as some may fear.

BM ComponentsThe process begins with identifying and documenting all the assumptions and beliefs about the industry. Writing down the prevailing industry business model will help in uncovering the unspoken ideas about how the industry currently works. To aide the conversation, leveraging the Business Model Canvas helps ensure all the components are addressed.   By challenging each component of the business model, reframing it, turning it upside down, new mechanisms to create value begin to emerge. (Hint: Challenge Map is a good tool to thinking differently about a component). A four-step process can help shift conventional thinking to something new and innovative.

The 4 Step Process

Step 1:  Create the business model that currently dominates the industry
Challenge Question: What are the long held beliefs and/or assumptions in the business model? What is sacred? What have people been afraid to touch in the past?

Step 2:  Challenge the ideas behind each business model component
Challenge Question: What drives the core beliefs? What is at the base of the core belief? Why do the belief exist? Are the beliefs or assumptions true?

Step 3:  Look through the new lens
Challenge Question: What is a replacement idea that no one currently believes? Can things be done in a different way? Does the new component(s) make sense? Is there a similar business model in another industry? (Hint: Exchanging business models from industry to industry works well).

Step 4:  Develop the new business model
Challenge Question: Is the new business model complete? Is it radically different or an incremental change? Does the new business model create value? What has to change in order to activate the new business model? Is there a new mechanism or product/service that falls out of the new business model than can give an added business advantage? How long will it take to transition to the new business model? Does the new business model provide an advantage?

Business Model Innovation Process

Teams can systematically examine each element of their business model. Various innovations are possible within each element.   Several new business models may exist at the end of the exercise.

Established companies struggle to innovate their business models unless a new product or service forces them to do so. Blockbuster is an example of a company waited too long to challenge their business model for their service. Netflix beat them to the punch for By Mail DVD. Blockbuster never recovered. But all companies regardless of size, age or past success, can disrupt their industry if they are willing to take a serious look at the belief systems currently in place. Will what works today still work tomorrow? Is it possible to move forward and ahead with what is done today?

5 Ways a Suggestion Box Fails

Inspiration concept crumpled paper light bulb metaphor for good idea

An ineffective way to engage employees in a innovation or continuous improvement program, if not executed properly, is through the all too common suggestion box.   They are usually implemented with the best of intentions by managers who really do want to hear from the people in the organization and the ideas they have.   Most of the reasons suggestion boxes, or any idea collection process, do not work effectively come down to a combination of process, culture and communication related issues.

Only a small number of ideas get implemented
The rule of thumb these days is 2-3% of ideas submitted through a suggestion box actually get implemented. This is demotivating for those folks who have a lot of ideas but never see anything come of the ideas. People submit ideas because they see a way to make something better or identified a problem and want to fix it.   If they feel they are not empowered to fix the problem themselves, they will eventually stop looking for ways to improve things.

Lack of follow up
In too many organizations, the suggestion box is where ideas go to die. Some groups may send an email upon receipt of the idea but that is where it may end. Imagine someone taking time out of their busy day to either fill out the form and send the idea through the proper channels to only receive an automated email, if anything at all. Why take the extra effort? People like to know that their ideas are getting noticed, worked on, and hopefully implemented. The idea is perceived to be “lost in the ether” without communicating what is happening to the idea at each milestone of the process. Also consider bringing the person who generated the idea into the discussion. Who better can explain the idea?

No way to know who is participating and who is not
If a suggestion box was set up, the organization is looking ideas for innovation continuous improvement. More than likely most of the ideas are coming from a few people. Overall engagement is low but no one knows for sure. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done. One way to increase engagement in any idea collection effort is to measure it and track from whom the ideas come. And then, let everyone know that the ideas are being tracked. Make submitting an idea part of everyone’s goals. In a year, everyone will have at least one idea worthy of being sent up the chain of command for review.

No recognition or reward
A good way to increase engagement is to offer recognition for participating. The rewards and recognitions do not have to be big, fancy or expensive. Acknowledgement and gratitude that is communicated to the idea submitter and the organization at large can go a long way.   Those who submit an idea that gets implemented deserve additional recognition. Keep in mind, the emphasis is on participation, not on submitting the “winning idea.”

Making it digital won’t solve the problems
Automating a paper process does not make it better or more efficient. It just means that it all happens theoretically faster. If the process is poorly executed or missing components when manual, odds are it will remain so when automated. Address the process, communication, measurement and engagement collectively when creating a digital version of the suggestion box. Otherwise, little will change and your engagement will remain low.

For a suggestion box or any idea collection process to work well, it will require a well managed process.   Ensure all know how, why and where to send the idea. Educate them on what happens to the idea at each stage and inform them of each milestone. Bringing the idea generator into the process will promote ownership and future engagement. Communicate how well the program is doing and reinforce management expectations. Recognize those participating with ideas. And ensure the process (yes, a suggestion box is a process) is designed appropriately prior to attempting to automate it.

Rapid Deployed Innovation System

Innovation is one of those buzzwords being thrown around today and yet there is still a lot of ambiguity and confusion on what innovation really means and how to do it successfully.   Part of the problem is there are many definitions for innovation. At Denovo, we prefer to keep it simple. Innovation is something that is new and creates value. It sounds easy but in reality there are many moving parts to make innovation a systematic and sustainable resource in an organization.   The Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework outlines the components necessary for a successful innovation program.

There are challenges however for beginning or sustaining a comprehensive innovation program. For starters, it can be overwhelming. Again, there are a lot of moving parts that need to sync up to make an innovation program successful in the long team. Many other constraints stopping organizations from being innovative are well documented in the PWC Global CEO Pulse Survey titled “Unleashing the Power of Innovation” released in 2013. The top three constraints are:

  • Financial Resources
  • Existing Organizational Culture
  • Lack of Internal Talent/Skills

These hurdles are addressed by implementing a Rapid Deployed Innovation System. And the best part, it only takes 16 weeks to do so. Download the free detailed plan to implement the Rapid Deployed Innovation System (see form to the right >>).


One advantage of the Rapid Deployed Innovation System is that it leverages existing resources but only on a limited basis. There is no need to backfill the resource or hire additional staff to launch the program. Also, one of the best ways to develop talent is to just start and learn as you go through the innovation process.   Implementation is quick and at the end of the 16 weeks, components that are foundational of the Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework are in place.

The Rapid Deployed Innovation System is composed of five sections over the 16 week period, each covering a short range in time and containing discreet tasks to move your innovation program forward.

  1. Set Future Direction
  2. Identify Opportunities
  3. Generate Ideas
  4. Optimize Concepts
  5. Oversee Project Portfolio

At the end of the 16 week journey, the Rapid Deployed Innovation System has put in place the beginnings of the Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework and there are a few big ideas to start transforming the business. The people involved in the Innovation Task Force and the Innovation Review Executive Committee now have some experience in innovation, and promote the culture shift towards an innovative organization. And the best part is the program is completed using existing resources for a minimal cost within a short amount of time. By implementing the Rapid Deployed Innovation system, the beginnings of Strategy, Innovation Management, Enabling Capabilities and Supporting Functions now exist to begin building a Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework to formalize innovation in the organization.

Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework

Holistic Integrated Innovation FrameworkInnovation requires more than just coming up with a great idea. Organizations need the great idea to solve the right problem. To do so requires components working together in an innovation framework.  Collectively these pieces form the Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework, or HIIF for short.

The Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework consists of 4 main areas: Strategy, Innovation Management, Enabling Capabilities, and Supporting Functions.

Strategy is the driver of the Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework. The Business Strategy guides the Innovation Strategy that outlines in which areas the organization is interested in pursuing. It helps shape the actions that occur during the process.

Innovation Management
Innovation Management begins with the Capabilities Assessment to determine what capabilities exist within the organization and identify the areas where work may be needed.   The Innovation Process consists of all the steps traditionally identified with ideation and development. Portfolio Management prioritizes the problems needing to be solved as well as the resulting approved projects to make the ideas a reality. Throughout the Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework, Innovation Metrics measures what is working and how well.

Enabling Capabilities
The core organizational capabilities reside in Enabling Capabilities.   This area is critical to the Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework.  Management and Leadership have been shown to greatly influence the success of an innovation program. The Culture also plays a big role in how people think and act at work. Obviously, Talent Development is key in ensuring people have the necessary skills to be successful. Tools, Framework and Infrastructure walk along with needed skills. Internal & External Collaboration outlines the collection of ideas and how to leverage the collective knowledge of the organization.   Few ideas or projects will be successful without Project Management to ensure the projects reach their goals quickly, efficiently and on budget.

Supporting Functions
The Supporting Functions identified as Reward & Incentives, Business Value & Risk Analysis, Organizational Change Management and Knowledge Manage promote the innovation culture by supporting the people working through the innovation framework and it’s processes.

When the main areas of the Holistic Integrated Innovation Framework are in place and working together, the systematic process of innovation becomes a sustainable advantage to the organization.