The Experimentation Budget

One would imagine that in forward thinking organizations, innovation would flow in a straight line.

Instead, the journey begins to resemble a circus show with one jumping over constant hoops and hurdles until the idea dies a slow painful death. The journey includes encountering people who hate the idea, those who love the idea but will not sponsor it, those who want to idea to resemble more of what they want and less of what it originally was to those who have absolutely no idea what to do with it. In a VC world, that is natural. Inside a well-oiled organization that is supposed to have eradicated the many barriers to innovation, it evokes every negative emotion that there is. I am human. I get upset, disappointed and then cynical.

The past week I embarked on three more investor meetings that all went south. Instead of receiving funding for an idea that my team & I have been socializing for the third year, we received an enthusiastic pat on the back and advice to look for cash elsewhere. At moments like these I feel like a complete idiot for not giving up on the idea and deluding myself into believing that year three will be the year of striking gold.  

Here’s my big idea 2020.

(Remember when LinkedIn at the start of every year published a series called Big Idea <insert year>? I wonder why they stopped. Did they lose hope too? Anyway, back to the point.)

 It is this. Gracefully simplistic. Irrefutably logical. Immensely helpful.

Give every team member their own discretionary innovation budget.

A budget dedicated to put your most outrageous ideas to test. A budget for all creative ventures. A budget that no one can stop you from spending on anything you wish to as long as it meets two simple criteria:

  1. It should be spend on executing or researching an idea.
  2. It should not benefit you in any way or family members and friends. #Integritycheck

What happens if the money isn’t enough? You sell the idea to others on the team. You begin to gather supporters. Instead of a few people holding the strings in the organization, you have now democratized power. If the money is not spent within the year, it lapses. So the others on the team are incentivized to invest the money on good ideas. Even if you don’t have enough, it is still a tiny seed that you can start with.

I am aware there are multiple aspects that need to be thought through but not that many that it begins to resemble a bureaucratic process of its own. But think about it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?


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