Informality, bootlegging, and gray market intrapreneurship may be vital cultural ingredients for innovation. But few forms of innovation persuasion convince as compellingly as those constituencies who are uniquely positioned to exert special influence over approval processes. Think of it as exceptionally targeted marketing.
The ethics are as provocative and problematical as the pragmatics. Surreptitiously winning the support of spouses and families hardly guarantees internal success. It’s easy to imagine how appealing to significant others could completely annihilate professional trust and confidence.
If one of your most important clients told you how impressed they were by the alpha version of an innovation offering your team was working on, would you be infuriated by your team’s unauthorized disclosure? Pleased by the initiative they’ve taken? Or irritated that you are being maneuvered into offering greater support than you might like?
The fear comes from a concern that conventional methods aren’t enough and that special persuasion initiatives are required. Enlisting a significant other or a significant client is seen as essential to survival. It’s a plea to look beyond yourself and the team to the judgment of people you like and respect. The desire comes from a felt need to show, not tell, the boss that this innovation deserves special recognition. It deserves to go beyond the normal channels and boundaries of enterprise interaction.
Tactics like these inhabit an ethical gray area because, just as with the “golden rule,” some people would be able to “get away” with them more easily than others. But innovators who are passionate about the value — and potential — of their work can be forgiven for looking for innovative ways to make their case.