Give an example of how you push your ideas to management

This is another form of communication with management, but this time you're creating the situation. Trickier still is the fact you have to get management to take an interest in your ideas.

The issues in these questions are actually career questions, as well.

To progress in your career, at some point you have to be creating some value in your own ideas, and taking the initiative in promoting those ideas.

You're being asked how you push your ideas for a good reason. In many industries, those ideas are very high value. In advertising, they can be worth millions. In the sciences and media, they can be worth billions.

You also need to recognize that this question is checking out your leadership and your qualities as an employee. Some employers don't want spectators. Others want to be sure they have people who will generate value on their own initiative.

In many jobs, pushing your own ideas is extremely difficult, not because the employer isn't interested, but because it's a very competitive workplace, with nearly everyone promoting themselves and their ideas. Sales is a case in point. Good sales people have endless ideas about how to sell product, at just about all levels of the work.

Management has to make the decisions about which ideas to follow up, and which to drop. This can be pretty tough on employees, because in many cases a lot of their own time and money goes into creating the presentation for the ideas, and it's effectively wasted.

To promote an idea, you have to be very conscious of the risks and rewards. There's a nasty but sometimes true rumor that some people come up with great ideas for their employers, and are promptly fired and the employer simply takes the ideas.

Ideas are property. They're covered by copyright. You have the copyright, unless you've agreed to assign those rights to the employer. Stealing them is actually illegal, and actionable, but it's not an easy, or a cheap, process.

The rewards, on the other hand, can be spectacular. After all, you could have the full resources of a company to produce your ideas, and the rights to the money the idea generates.

(That's usually an equity deal. The company will want a part of those rights to cover its own expenses, as well as profits. If you're in this situation, get legal advice before even mentioning the idea to anyone.)

So how do you get your idea of the ground, and up to management level?

  • You check your own costs. Always do this. Don't do anything until you know what it's going to cost, your times, and have real figures in front of you.
  • You check how ideas are presented to management in your firm. This must be done properly, and you must know everything about this process. Ask your manager, in the I think I have an idea, how do I show it to the boss? mode. Don't give them anything concrete until you're ready.
  • You check viability of your idea. Will it work? Is it expensive? You need to know before you go anywhere near management with even a whisper of the idea.
  • You create your own product, in whatever form. Copyright is instantly conferred on any intellectual product, when it's in what called tangible form, under international copyright conventions.
  • You then, and only after doing all of the above, proceed to present your idea to management. This way your rights are covered, and you know exactly what you're doing at all stages of the process.

This is what's supposed to happen. That's what you're supposed to know when you get asked how you push your ideas.

Depending on your industry and the employer, you can be asked this question in a few different ways, but fundamentally it's about how you create ideas and product for the employer.

In some industries, like media, you can be asked this question at a surprisingly low level. You may be the junior gopher, and they're asking you how you push your ideas to senior management?

That's exactly what they're doing, and they're asking because they want to see what you can really do. At lower levels you don't get these challenges. It's a promotional question for the junior levels, and checking your knowledge.

At the interview

The questions are very straightforward. They have to be, to allow you to work with them. It's important, though, that you understand what you're being asked, and why.

  • We're toy makers. You've come up with a new product line. How do you make your idea work for management, with other designers competing?
  • You have an idea for a new software package for our products. How do you convince management to go with your idea?
  • You have a product you've developed on your own time, and you want to show it to the boss for evaluation as a commercial product. How do you do that, and what are your considerations?

Remember you're talking business here.

You need to know what you're talking about, at every relevant level.

Sounding ignorant on any issue will count against you, because other interviewees will know these things.

All of the issues in these questions have to be well understood. The employer isn't doing this for fun. This is a competency question, even if it's in another, more hypothetical, context.

We're toy makers. You've come up with a new product line. How do you make your idea work for management, with other designers competing?

Explanation of the question

This translates as We have a lot of people pitching product ideas at us all the time. Can you do this effectively? The question is asked because manufacturers must use their time and money efficiently on a commercial basis. They can't really waste time on half baked concepts. All products need to meet a commercial standard, and so does the person presenting them.

The answer has to show professional competence, and be fully prepared in advance, like your new idea.

You answer:

Since it's a new product line, there's a lot of information required to be presented to management. I prepare a complete costing, with all materials, production specifications, and anticipated sale cost at wholesale and retail levels.

I then approach management through the necessary channels with a proposal outlining the products and commercial benefits.

This answer contains the basics. There may or may not be a need to refer to any guidelines the manufacturer has created for designers.

That applies to any idea or product.

There is always a way to present your idea, as long as you do it properly.

You have an idea for a new software package for our products. How do you convince management to go with your idea?

Explanation of the question

You need to listen to the questions. This time you're being asked about costs as well. Redoing software, marketing it, and repackaging it costs a lot of money. To make this worth doing, your idea must have cost benefits, not just costs.

Anything involving existing products must be costed. Remember the employer has already costed these things, and you're about to throw a spanner in the budget estimates and projections.

You answer:

First I prepare my cost analysis. I come up with a complete cost benefit breakdown for the new package, including any repackaging and reworking of the existing products.

I then make a formal proposal through channels, providing a synopsis of the idea, and the cost benefits.

That's a very simple version. This can get positively tedious, in terms of the amount of detail required to just explain what needs doing. You can find yourself sounding like a cross between an lawyer and accountant.

But do it.

If you think you're about to produce an encyclopedia to the interviewers, ask them how much detail they want.

The basic procedures can't be left out of your answer.

They need to know you understand the procedures, and what's expected.

You have a product you've developed on your own time, and you want to show it to the boss for evaluation as a commercial product. How do you do that, and what are your considerations?

This one, you could write a library on, and you don't have time.

If you have to go into detail, again, ask before you start. This is a complex question, and detail is detail. The important elements are contained in the question itself, and those are the issues you have to address.

Your considerations are:

  • You've done this independently, you own the product, at this point.
  • You want to either sell it, or get some backing.
  • You also want to make money, not give it away.
  • To do this through the company, you and your product have to be credible, commercially, and as a business partner. So you have to know your stuff about the business end, your and theirs.

You answer:

I start with a formal proposal through channels, outlining the product, with a market analysis of commercial viability of the product. I can support the proposal, if it proceeds, with a thorough working cost projection for all relevant aspects of the product.

My considerations are equity in the product, copyright issues, and essentially formalizing a business arrangement about marketing the product in partnership with the company.

If you sound like you're giving the product to the company, the interviewers will think you don't understand the process. This is a purely business venture to them, and your credibility will suffer. They wouldn't be too sure of doing business with someone who didn't know the basics.

(If you ever happen to be in this situation with an employer, you'll also need some reliable legal advice when you get to any real proposals.)

In your career, you have to be able to move your own ideas forward. This is a very good introduction to the methods.

Learn your way through the obstacle course, and it stops being an obstacle.