Effective Communication

When Your Boss Shoots Down Your Ideas

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You’ve dreamed up a new product or figured out how to do things better at your firm—but your boss doesn’t want to hear about it.

In fact, the top brass haven’t wanted to try anything new for months—and your firm is falling behind. Should you fire off your resume to a competing firm?

Possibly. Your employer’s financial health may depend on it. At organizations that increased revenue 30% or more in the past one to three years because of innovation, 96% of leaders said innovation was highly valued in the workplace and 100% said it was part of their organizational strategy, in a recent survey by the audit, tax and consulting firm Plante Moran in Southfield, Mich. In contrast, firms that fell short of that level of innovation-driven revenue growth said customers drive innovation. The survey included businesses, nonprofits and some public institutions.

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Here are some questions to ask to determine if it will ever be possible to innovate at your firm or if you’ll have to leave to realize your great idea.

Is saying no to innovation a habit? Many big companies slowed their spending on research and development last year so if your idea was nixed in the recent past, it may be worth pitching it again this year. A recent study by the consultancy strategy&—formerly Booz & Co.—found that the average investment in R&D grew just 1.4% in 2014, after two previous two years of higher growth in spending. Just make sure you tie your idea into the firm’s key priorities somehow.

Is innovation a stated priority? Among the most successful innovators in Plante Moran’s study, 60% have a line item in their budget for research and development, 83% invest in training to help employees generate more innovative ideas and 58% have an employee-suggestion program. If your firm doesn’t do any of these things, it may not be the best place for creative types.

Are other organizations in your field investing more in innovation? If your employer isn’t keeping up, you may have to jump ship to act on your best ideas. But before you do, look for a firm that has a real track record of investing in innovation. Strategy&’s research found that among the most innovative firms in its study, Amazon increased its R&D spending by the greatest percentage in 2014. It rose nearly 44%, to $6.6 billion. Google came in second, with a 17.1% increase to $8 billion.

Big Jobs Hiding in Small Places
Big Jobs Hiding in Small Places

Try one of the most innovative industries. It’s not just Silicon Valley software and internet firms that lead in innovation, so if you’re job hunting, don’t rule out other innovative fields. Other top categories that strategy& identified were computing and electronics, healthcare, auto and industrials.

Kickstart your idea. Corporate life can be tough if you’re truly an innovator, so consider starting your own business, too. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made it easier to come up with the cash. If your employment agreement doesn’t prohibit moonlighting or give your employer rights to any ideas you develop, you may even be able to do it before you leave your firm.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money, Forbes.com, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.