Life of a good idea 2: first reactions

I began sounding people out today, looking for ears sympathetic to… uh… the general area of concern. It’s a biased sample, of course, but everyone so far loves it, which is great. Better still, it seems like it’s sticking in their heads, bothering them to come up with ways to help.

At this point, I’ve got what amounts to a 2-page mini-specification: here’s the idea in summary form, here’s what we’d have to do (very little) and here’s the good stuff that happens if we do it.

What I’ll face later this week, after I get some more feedback and refine the mini-spec a little, is a common Program Manager dilemma:
– I can go through the project initiation process
– Network — build a groundswell of support, hopefully including an executive sponsor and others who can help

The problem with the first is that projects like this (small, awesome, with potentially huge jaw-dropping impacts that haven’t come through standard processes and stamps of approval from the people who normally start up projects) is that they’re extremely likely to get dumped out of a process at that point, no matter how good they are.

This is stupid, but it’s the truth, and it’s been the truth anywhere I’ve ever worked (if you work at Google, and read this, you suck). Now, I’m stubborn and dogged and I can be persuasive if the occasion calls for it, but I think I’m going to have a real hard time getting this through the giant sausage-maker.

The other option appeals to me as a wanna-be revolutionary. It has the added benefit that at some point I may be able to convince an exec that it’s their brilliant idea, and then it’ll get built. I’ll give up credit if it’ll get this done, though obviously I’d like the attaboy and pat on the head.

Plus, I feel that if I recruit enough people, it makes it much easier to go into the process and fight it out.

Now with enough people, I could potentially skunkwork the software side, but my idea requires some business process and relationship-building. It’s not something I could get built and have show up on tomorrow without there being some big trouble (which I think we could get away with, but… it’d be large enough I think it might be as much trouble for me personally as it good for the company and the world). I’d be willing to make that sacrifice as well, but if I get it out and it gets pulled immediately and I get fired, I haven’t won anything.

The downside to continuing to recruit quietly and then build up ground-level support is that you risk being perceived as running a rogue operation — even if you aren’t — and you have to fight past that when you do go into the process.

And if you’re wondering if I’m frustrated that this is the case, and that I can’t just throw the idea out to everyone, have people flip out and then get it built in a wave of joyous togetherness — I am. I’ve fought for ways Expedia can be more innovative for a long time, and I think I’ll leave it at that.

For now, I’m going to keep recruiting, and try and find some more sympathetic ears in the company to talk strategy with. Hopefully I’ll track down at least one big fish in the next couple of days. If not, I’ll have a larger ground operation working.