BlogHer | bet '11: Business Track: Managing Up: The Key to Accelerating Your Big Idea

Liveblog

Welcome to the BlogHer | bet ’11 liveblog of the Business Track: Managing Up: The Key to Accelerating Your Big Idea panel!

Leading a team to develop your big idea is a non-starter if you haven’t managed to convince your management to let you take the ball and run with it. Seeking corporate management approval can be harder than getting seed funding! How do you position a big idea to get the most traction?

Telle Whitney, President and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, moderates this panel of corporate stars, including Director of Communications for The Coca-Cola Company, Crystal Warwell Walker; Executive Director of New Product Development and Research at Kaplan University, Jacqueline Jones, and Vice President of IBM, Sandy Carter, who have cracked the code on getting buy-in at the highest levels in an organization.

Telle: Going for VC funding is only one path. Being an entrepreneur works no matter where you are, and entrepreneurial support within a large corporation can work too. These women are going to talk about how to have the impact you want within a large corporation. How do you get the best support for these ideas?

Crystal: I'm in charge of Sustainability Communications at the Coca-Cola company. As you might imagine, sustainability can have a broad definition. But at Coca-Cola it's clear: it's about people, community, and planet. I'm responsible for making sure we have one voice in that space. For me, managing up (and out, peers are important) is critical to my success.

Jacquie: I started out as an entrepreneur, so I have both a corporate and an entrepreneur background. Regarding managing up, you use a lot of the same skills. At Kaplan we do a lot of feasibility studies, we look for growing areas and growing industries -- what are the skills sets people need to develop? I'm also interested in partnerships to develop services to serve communities. It's a pleasure to be here, hoping for dialogue.

Sandy: I am a VP at IBM, I have been asked to focus on social business, applying social media to business practices, to help companies grow in their marketing and product innovation. I've been asked to turn around businesses within IBM. Getting social business started at IBM required selling up!

Telle: I have a computer science background, with 20 years working in semiconductor industry. I do lots of work to make technology culture more welcoming to women.

Examples of managing up and having the impact we hope to make:

Jacquie: I'll take an idea I've been working on: A few months ago I got the idea --  how do we distill today's leaders' insights -- like what we're talking about on this panel -- bottle it and provide it to others? The idea is moving forward and picking up steam.

Sandy: IBM is pretty conservative. I had an idea to make a social game to generate marketplace demand. So I started doing role playing with my team, trying to anticipate the case we'd have to build. We started building advocates, would show them the concept, understand what roadblocks might be, explain it and why it was powerful and beneficial -- then when we walked into a room to pitch, people would already have buy-in and be brand advocates. Also we have ROE - Return On Everything - so we were able to speak language of CFO about our potential idea. It's now the #1 site game -- Innov8 -- people post their scores to Facebook, that gives me data that I can send to marketing.

Crystal: In 2010 I inherited a stalled and failing project, was told to make it work -- give it "air and light" so it could grow. But it needs to be GOOD first! We had to manage up to get a year to make it great. Then I took a step back to evaluate who can win by using this tool -- so I did that. Many people thought I spent a lot of time trying to build interest -- but I'd rather take a "coalition of the willing" first. We are now doing a 5,000 employee pilot, will be showing results at a meeting in August.

Sandy: In a large company, there are a lot of people that you have to convince. I've traveled to 64 countries -- we're a big company! But once I've sold it, we have the resources to make it successful and to execute it on a grand scale. Smaller companies need to start smaller -- they have to spend less time selling, more time having to amass the resources to make it happen.

Jacquie: I've learned you have to have your data, your customer insight upfront. Insight to innovation is critical. Kaplan Commitment was a project that my team researched, our research was behind it. I was shocked to find that large percent of college students are working adults, adults with kids -- they need flexibility. Kaplan Commitment allows folks to test out. Having the data behind that idea was essential. That's how you get support for your idea. You're not relying on intuition to move forward.

Entrepreneurship is booming. According to the Census, so many companies have less than 20 people.

Crystal: Executives and non-executives speak different languages. Non-corporate types tend to speak about merit, how it's going to make a difference. Corporations talk about efficiency, scale, value, profit-loss. They're on opposite sides of the fence, but they don't have to be. At the end of the day, we all go to work to achieve our objectives.

Sandy: I've seen so many great ideas shot down because folks didn't get the right advocates to influence their ideas. We're not talking about something esoteric -- we're talking about people.

Terre: One of the biggest realizations I've had is: Cool technology itself doesn't make for successful business. Have to understand what your customers want and need.

Jacquie: You need to know what your stakeholders' interests are. You need to know what problem you're going to solve for those folks.

And you can't overcommunicate! You need a team. Know your numbers/metrics, know when to delegate, keep your passion with you too.

Crystal: Presale also important. I don't walk into a meeting if I don't already know what 80 percent of the folks in the room think, and I've already adjusted my pitch from talking to those folks ahead of time. If you're too firm in  your own idea, you won't give others space to buy in, they can't help build.

Sandy: Women overprepare for the pitch itself, men tend to focus on getting colleagues on board, the networking. Successful women network, they have their presale, they know their advocates. This is PART OF YOUR JOB. Going to lunch with these folks isn't extra!

Question from Michelle in Audience: What can folks in middle management do to manage up if they're not part of the road map? How do  you get folks to pay attention to you?

Sandy: I'd say that good ideas can come from anywhere in the company, you might have to get it to another person. Find someone you can share your idea with and get them excited, get them to bring it on your behalf. Or talk to lots of people so your idea can bubble up, get you a seat at the table.

Jacquie: See if there's a forum for ideas in your company, to allow employees to pitch ideas to top management. You'd be surprised, a lot of the best ideas come from many different levels within the company.

Crystal: Do you objective-set in your company, so concepts ladder up? This is a great opportunity to help ideas move up. This is an opportunity to start selling in. If you don't have line-of-sight, this is one way to get it.

Second question from Michelle in Audience: What about when planning happens more than a year in advance?

Crystal: Then you need to seed it before planning, and also have patience.

Sandy: Or suggest new ways to get ideas in, so company can see ideas in real time.

Telle: I can't tell you how many women tell me they want to be recognized for their good ideas.

Crystal: But you can get so focused on what you're doing that you miss what's coming. You have to keep your head up, keep talking and listening so you know what's going on. This helps you keep more relevant, more in tune.

Comment from audience: Stephanie: But if you spend too much time networking,  you get no work done, you make no money if you're following hash tag after hash tag.

Jacquie: If you're good at something, it's good to partner with someone who can help you, who shares your passion -- you need to get someone on your side.

Telle:  How do you find good partners?

Sandy: It depends on the idea, and who has influence in that area. I'd look at the idea, figure out who is the expert, who are people going to turn to about that topic.

Five percent of the bloggers and tweeters influence everyone else.

Crystal: I find the people who have as much to gain from my succeeding as I do, then they'll be invested. And it's amazing how many people will notice your idea if that influential person comments on it.

Question from Audience: Tricia from Mabel's Labels: How do I identify how achievers?

Jacquie: I interview for values and integrity. Almost as important as their ability to execute.

Sandy: I interview for references, and try to find people that others recommend. Those tend to be my very best employees. If I get someone that six people recommend, then I go into sales mode. I also make sure the person has subject matter expertise! I'm not going to hire someone as a social media expert if they don't have a Twitter or Facebook account.

Question from Audience: If you're managing your own business and deeply tied to your idea, if it's tied to your identity -- how do you stay in convincing mode, especially in communities that are unfamiliar with your business model?

Sandy: It's always hard with someone you don't know when you tell them what to improve if you don't have a relationship. But if you show them what their competitor is doing, they can see the gap without you showing them directly - and then it's their idea rather than you telling them what's wrong. That was you get their trust.

Jacquie: When going to speak to a client, it's all about opportunity, showing them how they can meet their business goals: trends, etc.

Crystal: Or you can show them other companies' gaps. The idea is that you want to be credible, show them that your idea can work.

Question from Audience: Elina: When you have lots of ideas and potential directions, how do you decide where to start?

Crystal: It's easy for me, it goes back to objectives. If I can find other ideas to latch it onto, the low-hanging fruit that have the best ideas for air and light, or the ones I'm most passionate about. But you have limited time, you have to prioritize.

Jacquie: Stakeholder interest is another way to prioritize. If you have the passion behind your project, that can help you get past objectives.

Telle: I'll sometimes go to a more pragmatic choice, with a matrix of plusses and minuses. And sometimes I'll tear that paper up and sleep on it and come up with a solution in the morning.

Question from audience: Ana: What do you do when the fun part is over, the selling? How do  you balance, where do you draw the line?

Sandy: Hire someone who loves to do the things you don't like to do so much, and with whom you work well together. If you can afford to do that.

Crystal: Earlier discussion was Who do you want to be? Determine what your objectives are, including lifestyle. Who do I want to be, what am I trying to grow?

Jacquie: Step back and think about what made you start the business, and fight to hold on to that. That passion will keep people drawn towards you.

Comment from audience: Kellie: A lot of things you said today are appropriate for non-profits as well, e.g., coalition of the willing, so thank you.

Question from Audience: Chantelle: As an entrepreneur, it's sometimes hard to stay motivated if you don't have a big team -- have to set personal development goals. What kind of path have you taken?

Sandy: When I was eighteen, I went to a famous football coach's talk. He said to write down 100 goals for your life, and keep going back to it. I use it to level-set, personally. As I look at them -- I sort them into personal, professional, aspirational -- and those motivate and inspire me, and I use it to do the same with my two young daughters.

Jacquie: Don't forget your dreams, I'm always trying to learn things outside of work. But you have to learn to learn - there's so much going on around you, there's always something out there. One thing we see in this environment is that learning is changing. You don't stop learning when you get a degree. Always stay in a state of wonder, be aware of trends. In your career and business, be aware of what you need to teach your customers.

Crystal: Outliers is a great book, nature vs. nurture, you have to do something for 10,000 hours or ten years -- so if you want to be an expert, get going! Hone your craft! You often get only one bite of the apple. If come into a meeting off-objective, even if it's going to change the world, you might not get that chance again. So you have to be prepared when your big chance comes, practice practice practice!

One final comment from each panelist:

Jacquie: I'd like to stress the need for community. One of the things I really want to encourage is the sharing of ideas. I want to hear from you! What are your needs in terms of education? We're starting a community, a linked in community for people to submit questions and ideas. I want my company to learn more about your needs.

Crystal: I have a question for you. How many of you left your mentor session with a next step? Whenever you have a mentoring situation, never leave the table without ensure an opportunity to follow up. I like to pay it forward.

Sandy: Something I had learned earlier: You need to take the time to learn how to network, and take the time. Find that five percent, the influencers, the tippers in your area -- find out how you can make a difference.

Liveblogging by Shannon Des Roches Rosa

Managing Up

Telle Whitney, President and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, moderates this panel of corporate stars, including Director of Communications for The Coca-Cola Company, Crystal Warwell Walker; Executive Director of New Product Development and Research at Kaplan University, Jacqueline Jones, and Vice President of IBM, Sandy Carter, who have cracked the code on getting buy-in at the highest levels in an organization.

Going for VC funding is only one path. Being an entrepreneur works no matter where you are, and entrepreneurial support within a large corporation can work too. These woman are going to talk about how to have the impact you want within a large corporation. How do you get the best support for these ideas?

Crystal: Sustainability communications at the Coca-Cola company. As you might imagine, sustainability can have a broad definition. But at Coca Cola it's clear: it's about people, community, and planet. I'm responsible for making sure we have one voice in that space. For me, managing up (and out, peers are important) is critical to my success.

Jacquie: I started out as an entrepreneur, so I have both corporate and entrepreneur backgrounds. Regarding managing up, you use a lot of the same skills. At Kaplan we have 70,000 students. I do a lot of feasibility studies, we look for growing areas and growing industries -- what are the skills sets people need to develop? I'm also interested in partnerships to develop services to serve communities. It's a pleasure to be here, hoping for dialogue.

Sandy: I am a VP at IBM, I have been asked to focus on social business, applying social media to business practices, to help companies grow in their marketing and product innovation. I've been asked to turn around businesses within IBM, so entrepreneurial. Getting social business started at IBM required selling up!

Telle: Computer science background, 20 yrs working in semiconductor industry. Working to make technology culture more welcoming to women.

Examples of managing up and having the impact we hoped to make:

Jacquie: I'll take an idea I've been working on: A few months ago I got the idea --  how do we distill today's leaders' insights -- like what we're talking about on this panel -- bottle it and provide it to others? The idea is moving forward and picking up steam.

Sandy: IBM is pretty conservative. I had an idea to make a social game to generate marketplace demand. So I started doing role playing with my team, trying to anticipate the case we'd have to build. We started building advocates, would show them the concept, understand what roadblocks might be, explain it and why it was powerful and beneficial -- then when we walked into room, people would already have buy-in and be brand advocates. Also we have ROE - Return On Everything - so we were able to speak language of CFO about our potential idea. It's now the #1 site game -- a innov8 -- people post their score to Facebook, that gives me data that I can send to marketing.

Crystal: In 2010 I inherited stalled and failing project, told to make it work -- give it "air and light" so it could grow. But it needs to be GOOD first! We had to manage up to get a year to make it great. Then I took a step back to evaluate who can win by using this tool -- so I did that. Many people thought I spent a lot of time trying to build interest -- but I'd rather take a "coalition of the willing" first. We are now doing a 5,000 employee pilot, will be showing results at a meeting in August.

Sandy: In a large company, there are a lot of people that you have to convince. I've traveled to 64 countries -- we're a big company! But once I've sold it, we have the resources to make it successful and to execute it on a grand scale. Smaller companies need to start smaller -- they'd spend less time selling, more time having to amass the resources to make it happen.

Jacquie: I've learned you have to have your data, your customer insight upfront. Insight to innovation is critical. Kaplan Commitment was a project that my team researched, our research was behind it. I was shocked to find that large percent of college students are working adults, adults with kids -- they need flexibility. Kaplan Commitment allows folks to test out. Having the data behind that idea was essentials. That's how you get support for your idea. You're not relying on intuition to move forward.

Entrepreneurship is booming. According to the Census, so many companies have less than 20 people.

Crystal: Executives and non-executives speak different languages. Non-corporate types tend to speak about merit, how it's going to make a difference. Corporations talk about efficiency, scale, value, profit-loss. They're on opposite sides of the fence, but they don't have to be. At the end of the day, we all go to work to achieve our objectives.

Sandy: I've seen so many great ideas shot down because folks didn't get the right advocates to influence their ideas. We're not talking about something esoteric -- we're talking about people.

Terre: One of the biggest realizations I've had is: Cool technology itself doesn't make for successful business. Have to understand  your customers.

Jacquie: You need to know what your stakeholders' interests are. If you're selling an app for a green company, you need to know what problem you're doing to solve for that manager.

And you can't overcommunicate! You need a team. Know your numbers/metrics, know when to delegate, keep your passion with you too.

Crystal: Presale also important. I don't walk into a meeting if I don't already know what 80 percent of the folks in the room think, and I've already adjusted my pitch from talking to those folks ahead of time. If you're too firm in  your own idea, you won't give others space to buy in, and help build.

Sandy: Women overprepare for the pitch itself, men tend to focus on getting colleagues on board, the networking. Successful women network, they have their presale, they know their advocates. This is PART OF YOUR JOB. Going to lunch with these folks isn't extra!

Question from Michell in Audience: What can folks in middle management do to manage up if they're not part of the road map? How do  you get folks to pay attention to you?

Sandy: I'd say that good ideas can come from anywhere in the company, you might have to get it to another person. Find someone you can share your idea with and get them excited, get them to bring it on your behalf. Or talk to lots of people so your idea can bubble up, get you a seat at the table.

Jacquie: See if there's a forum for ideas in your company, to allow employees to pitch ideas to top management. You'd be surprised, a lot of the best ideas come from many different levels within the company.

Crystal: Do you objective-set in your company, so concepts ladder up? This is a great opportunity to help ideas move up. This is an opportunity to start selling in. If you don't have line-of-sight, this is one way to get it.

Second question from Michelle in Audience: What about when planning happens more than a year in advance?

Crystal: Then you need to seed it before planning, and also have patience.

Sandy: Or suggest new ways to get ideas in, so company can see ideas in real time.

Telle: I can't tell you how many women tell me they want to be recognized for their good ideas.

Crystal: But you can get so focused on what you're doing that you miss what's coming. You have to keep your head up, keep talking and listening so you know what's going on. This helps you keep more relevant, more in tune.

Comment from audience: Stephanie: But if you spend too much time networking,  you get no work done, you make no money if you're following hash tag after hash tag.

Jacquie: If you're good at something, it's good to partner with someone who can help you, who shares your passion -- you need to get someone on your side.

Telle:  How do you find good partners?

Sandy: It depends on the idea, and who has influence in that area. I'd look at the idea, figure out who is the expert, who are people going to turn to about that topic.

Five percent of the bloggers and tweeters influence everyone else.

Crystal: I find the people who have as much to gain from my succeeding as I do, then they'll be invested. And it's amazing how many people will notice your idea if that influential person comments on it.

Question from Audience: Tricia from Mabel's Labels: How do I identify how achievers?

Jacquie: I interview for values and integrity. Almost as important as their ability to execute.

Sandy: I interview for references, and try to find people that others recommend. Those tend to be my very best employees. If I get someone that six people recommend, then I go into sales mode. I also make sure the person has subject matter expertise! I'm not going to hire someone as a social media expert if they don't have a Twitter or Facebook account.

Question from Audience: If you're managing your own business and deeply tied to your idea, if it's tied to your identity -- how do you stay in convincing mode, especially in communities that are unfamiliar with your business model?

Sandy: It's always hard with someone you don't know when you tell them what to improve if you don't have a relationship. But if you show them what their competitor is doing, they can see the gap without you showing them directly - and then it's their idea rather than you telling them what's wrong. That was you get their trust.

Jacquie: When going to speak to a client, it's all about opportunity, showing them how they can meet their business goals: trends, etc.

Crystal: Or you can show them other companies' gaps. The idea is that you want to be credible, show them that your idea can work.

Question from Audience: Elina: When you have lots of ideas and potential directions, how do you decide where to start?

Crystal: It's easy for me, it goes back to objectives. If I can find other ideas to latch it onto, the low-hanging fruit that have the best ideas for air and light, or the ones I'm most passionate about. But you have limited time, you have to prioritize.

Jacquie: Stakeholder interest is another way to prioritize. If you have the passion behind your project, that can help you get past objectives.

Telle: I'll sometimes go to a more pragmatic choice, with a matrix of plusses and minuses. And sometimes I'll tear that paper up and sleep on it and come up with a solution in the morning.

Question from audience: Ana: What do you do when the fun part is over, the selling? How do  you balance, where do you draw the line?

Sandy: Hire someone who loves to do the things you don't like to do so much, and with whom you work well together. If you can afford to do that.

Crystal: Earlier discussion was Who do you want to be? Determine what your objectives are, including lifestyle. Who do I want to be, what am I trying to grow?

Jacquie: Step back and think about what made you start the business, and fight to hold on to that. That passion will keep people drawn towards you.

Comment from audience: Kellie: A lot of things you said today are appropriate for non-profits as well, e.g., coalition of the willing, so thank you.

Question from Audience: Chantelle: As an entrepreneur, it's sometimes hard to stay motivated if you don't have a big team -- have to set personal development goals. What kind of path have you taken?

Sandy: When I was eighteen, I went to a famous football coach's talk. He said to write down 100 goals for your life, and keep going back to it. I use it to level-set, personally. As I look at them -- I sort them into personal, professional, aspirational -- and those motivate and inspire me, and I use it to do the same with my two young daughters.

Jacquie: Don't forget your dreams, I'm always trying to learn things outside of work. But you have to learn to learn - there's so much going on around you, there's always something out there. One thing we see in this environment is that learning is changing. You don't stop learning when you get a degree. Always stay in a state of wonder, be aware of trends. In your career and business, be aware of what you need to teach your customers.

Crystal: Outliers is a great book, nature vs. nurture, you have to do something for 10,000 hours or ten years -- so if you want to be an expert, get going! Hone your craft! You often get only one bite of the apple. If you're off-objective, even if it's going to change the world,  you might not get that chance again. So you have to be prepared when your big chance comes, practice!

One final comment from each panelist:

Jacquie: I'd like to stress the need for community. One of the things I really want to encourage is the sharing of ideas. I want to hear from you! What are your needs in terms of education? We're starting a community, a linked in community for people to submit questions and ideas. I want my company to learn more about your needs.

Crystal: I have a question for you. How many of you left your mentor session with a next step? Whenever you have a mentoring situation, never leave the table without ensure an opportunity to follow up. I like to pay it forward.

Sandy: Something I had learned earlier: You need to take the time to learn how to network, and take the time. Find that five percent, the influencers, the tippers in your area -- find out how you can make a difference.

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