Behind every successful corporate innovator...
Innovators - those people who are able to generate the next best idea - are often people who are unafraid to "color outside the lines" and challenge existing corporate culture, norms and beliefs. Generally speaking, they are a bit more rebellious and open to new ways of thinking than their compatriots. These capabilities are what make the individuals innovative. However, these very strengths can cause a lot of these folks to fail.
With apologies to Goldwater - what many innovators fail to recognize is that zealotry in the defense of a great idea is a vice in many firms. Being convinced that you have a great idea is noble, but it does not change the fact that as an innovator, you must still work within the existing frameworks, approval processes and timeframes within the firm. Too often, innovators try to violate these norms and find themselves stymied. While it's easy to buck the existing norms when talking about a hypothetical product or service, attracting resources and changing budgets and priorities for a new idea is a lot more difficult.
In firms with a very strong culture, we like to marry an "idea" person or innovator with a culturally savvy individual, who can help build bridges and who knows where the informal power structures are located. Combining a person or team with real zeal for an idea with a person who can act as a bridge builder and interface to the existing power structure can result in a lot more success for the idea. In a rational world, great ideas would be judged on their merits alone, and in some organizations I think it happens that way. In the vast majority of businesses, however, conflicting priorities, existing projects and limited budgets mean that an idea, no matter how good it is, needs to get support from a broader audience before it can even be considered, much less moved forward into development. Too many innovators simply don't have the skills necessary to identify potential sponsors and build support.
Behind every successful corporate innovator lies a person or team who helped smooth the way. If you are an innovator and find yourself impatient with the decision making process or the work involved in building support and rapport internally, identify a sponsor or senior manager who knows the organization and understands how to get things done within the corporate context. On the other hand, if you are a person who understands how things get done and wants to get more involved in an innovation role, acting as a champion for ideas and building consensus is a very important aspect in most organizations.