Why Teams Are Terrified To Pitch Their Ideas The "Right Way"

Added on by Alexander Osterwalder.

In many organizations leadership is used to judging ideas, and teams are used to making their (unproven) ideas look picture perfect. That is the worst possible context to pitch new business ideas. The right way? Present the ideas in their rawest form possible, only supported by the evidence proving they might work.

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At the end of our 10-week long Strategyzer Innovation Sprints, the teams we accompany are invited to pitch their ideas, experiments, evidence, and what they’ve learned to a panel of leaders.  Unfortunately, teams are often terrified to perform these presentations because they feel they didn’t refine their ideas enough. They don’t trust their leaders to be satisfied by experiments, data, evidence, and insights, rather than shiny solutions on beautifully polished slides.

Why does this happen? Because leadership teams are rarely trained sufficiently to give the right type of feedback in these types of presentations. The feedback required in innovation projects is different from the feedback that leaders are used to giving in execution projects.  

When it comes to innovation pitches, leadership should ask how they can help get prototypes and business experiments to the next level. They need to ask questions such as: “is the evidence strong enough?”, “what other experiments could the team perform?”, “how much has the idea really been derisked?”, etc.  

I put this table together to break down the difference between an execution project presentation and an innovation project presentation.

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At W.L. Gore, the materials company, teams present their ideas, experiments, insights in a very particular way at the end of an Innovation Sprint. This substantially differs from how they normally present ideas.

Here’s what Dave Liss, a Global Business Leader at Gore, shared with us in our Q&A:

How we drafted and delivered that final presentation was important. It was very different than our traditional business update presentations. It was very visual. It was completely oriented from a customer perspective, not a product perspective. We created personas for the new segments that we had identified as well as the persona for the existing segment that we sell to today. Carrying that theme of the customer all the way through was really powerful. We shared a whole bunch of quotes taken from our customer discovery interviews. Having the customer's words--what their jobs to be done were, what their pain and gains were--and then overlaying our proposals on top of that was really powerful.

The greatest excitement came from the true customer input, so regularly using quotes was important. During our customer discovery interviews we were trying to capture verbatim notes as much as possible--particularly quotes and specific words that were important to the customer. The vocabulary became really critical. We needed to use the customers' vocabulary, not our vocabulary.

We are currently working on a new lesson for our online course that will help innovation teams make better presentations. Stay tuned for our new testing content to come soon!