Innovation without a budget

Is it common practice to expect amazing innovation without having a budget to develop concepts? Sure I understand that companies are financially responsible to share holders and money is thight these days but ideas cannot be evaluated for failure or success without research and prototyping. What would you do if you had a ton of ideas that are all potentially viable and no money for further development?

To answer your first question about common practice to expect amazing inovation withoug a budget…the answer is yes, it is common practice.

Pick the ideas that require the least amount of financial resources to create a vision for it and get cracking.

Move your ass. Hustle. Learn to sell. Network. Borrow money. Save money. If you’re at a corporation, present to the President/CEO/General Manager, or whoever else might be able to help you champion your idea. Figure out as quickly as possible if your idea is as good as you think it is. If it isn’t, bail and start another project.

Ideas are only as good as the execution of them.

Pitching the idea is the main problem. Most of which needs to be backed by solid market studies. Those require resources. There are none. Unfortunately I have run into many roadblocks trying to pitch and build excitement even with studies to prove validity based on the fact that if it costs money then it just cant be looked into. All monies are being filtered into cost reductions and current product. Nothing new. You cant squeeze blood from a turnip. I dont even have the resources to make some of the ideas myself. I need options. Even taking into consideration some of the concepts that require minimal resources has proven to meet dead ends.

This is slightly off of the original topic… but may help you with your budget issues.
A few thoughts…

If your initial investigation has led to a large number of ideas - and those ideas are all diverse enough in nature to require specific investments in order to measure their validity - perhaps you need to consider adding a few more constraints to the original problem in order to narrow down the scope.

Failing that… sitting in a room with your team or a trusted adviser and “spit-balling” which of your ideas has the best potential may also be an inexpensive way of quickly narrowing them down. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless.

Trust your judgement - I’m sure their are specific ideas that you feel have more merit than others.

The term a guy introduced me to a long time ago, in these situations was “Manage your Mangeement”.

Some of this sounds more like you wanting to do more as opposed to being asked to do more. Talk to your management and get them to tell you what their goals are.

“More innovation” isn’t a goal. Reducing part count by 25%, or reduce part cost by 5% are goals.

If they’re looking for the next generation of product, you’re job as a Designer isn’t to do “Market Research”. It is Marketing’s job to do that. You’re job is to design a product that suits the market as defined by Marketing (I can hear several of you doing a spit take already). You need to start focusing on what the business objectives of your company are. If they’re simply rudderless goals like, “more innovation, please”…you need to consider whether or not your personality is suitable for that environment.

It’s impossible to provide valid feedback to the situation in, as I have no idea if you’re part of the solution, or part of the problem.

Spit balling is great, having goals are great. I need to just buck up and start pushing for more time with management. I feel like I am floating out here and the goals are please provide us with more innovation. Wonder if someone wouldnt mind having a phone conversation about the matter to provide more insight. I feel like I am part of the prodblem but is that truly the case? Thanks for the great info.

If your company is truely all about cost out and maintaining current product - they are in a death spiral.
I assume the market for your product is very mature, and the company mantra is: “the only way to stay competitive is to cut cost”.
Concern for just the short term survival of the company may be overriding all else. Not uncommon these days.
Keep trying to pitch internally to whoever is willing to provide feedback, continue to refine the concepts and bide your time.
Persistence is one of ID’rs great advantages.

This sums it all up.

All innovation never has enough budget. You learn to live with it. My biggest piece of advice that IP did not lay out is to not only pick you battles, but pick the ones that are going to have the biggest business impact. Remember your customers look at the numbers. The greater the bottom line or the more profit you can bring to them the more they are going to take you seriously. This then results in more money for you in the long run. You have to start small and grow.


Work the system. Officially, most companies are tight, but often executives have the ability to the make the call to develop something, to invest in something, or their own personal budget. Find an ally who geeks out. Chances are there is someone at the VP level of your company interested in the future of the company past the next quarter. Find that person and start having lunch to discuss ideas…

In my experience, some of the best products in production started as a pet project between a few people who scrapped together enough money and support to make some prototypes, leveraged those to generate excitement, then made more prototypes, leveraged those to get some pre sales interest and got it into production…

Its amazing how perceptive this group can be. Funny that you mentioned the down spiral effect. The company just laid off their CFO tons of other individuals and you guessed it, myself. I do hope they recover but this is their third layoff and they have been trying to pull out of bankruptcy for some time. Upon taking the job 1.5 years ago I should have done a bit more research on their financial state. At any rate I do have to say it was pretty interesting working on products that allowed diversification in my portfolio. Looks like I’m off to the races! Know anyone in the market for a Senior Designer? I know, I know Mr. Moderator that’s another thread. Here’s a link to my portfolio. Take it easy people.


I’ve been in the same boat, it sounded familiar.
Check with your boss to be sure you can show your concept work in your portfolio, they’ll only care if they see light at the end of the bankruptcy tunnel.

sorry to hear about the layoff, best of luck.

Sorry to hear about the layoff. But lots of great feedback. Design is business. The only thing I’ll add is this - When you look for that next job, do the following to avoid repeating this situation and save yourself a lot of heartache further down the road:

  1. Go online to yahoo finance if it’s a publicly traded company, and read the last couple years’ annual reports. You’ll either see a ton of red flags or few. Pay attention to year over year numbers and competitors and see how they are really doing.
  2. See if the company has been involved in any newsworthy scandals or major class actions. One of my clients was in this boat for over a year, and their division was shut down despite not being the source of the problem.
  3. Does the company have a strong R&D culture? Look at linkedin and see what kind of R&D job titles and responsibilities pop up. Talk to some of those people, including ones that left, and find out what things are really like. Find out if designers live in a designer box or if they’re treated with a little respect and have actual product development responsibilities. You’ll find out quickly if this is a company you want to work for. Use employee reviews on too. For instance, Glassdoor reviews in aggregate say Frog is a relatively low-paying, high-hour sweatshop with lots of great projects and smart, talented people.
  4. Ask directly about layoffs and employee turnover and be worried if you can’t get a straight answer.