Roger L. Martin and Jennifer Riel make the provocative observation in a recent Business Week column, "Innovation's Accidental Enemies," that management's demands for "proof" make it difficult for innovators to advance new ideas. Indeed, the very term "proof of concept" suggests the importance of passing this management test.
I'm not so sure the corporate "enemies" are accidental. In fact, I think the obstruction is there by design. It's easy for innovators to come up with ideas, but only few will truly meet complex customer requirements. A series of obstacles can serve as an early expression of those requirements, so that the ideas stay on target. Good management ideally puts tests in the way to improve ideas.
I've also found that researchers sometimes present concepts to management as a solution that just needs to be invested in -- without laying out a plan for actually moving the business into the solution. So, management's objection to an idea may not be an objection to the ends, but just to the (lack of) means.
One of the ways to put means and ends together is to get customers involved early on in research. The Innovation Network research model looks for three-way partnerships -- universities, internal R&D and customers. The customers help to keep the research on track and also provide a path for advancing promising concepts, which may be all the "proof" that is needed.