Friday, October 8, 2010

Notes to Self: How to save good ideas.

When it comes to ideas, experience has taught me that there is lot of work to be done even to get a hearing and lot more if it has to be taken to the implementation stage. Just having a good idea alone is just not enough. Experience has also Taught me that human beings aren't exactly as rational as they think of themselves to be. This is even more evident when it comes to approaching new ideas. People have hidden biases, anxieties, contrary opinions and a constant fear of what the idea would do to them or their standing.

With the above in mind, I was thrilled when i came across an article in HBR titled 'How to save good ideas'. This is basically a sales pitch for the book 'Buy in - how to save good ideas from being killed'. I find the article very interesting and could relate a lot to it. I have given below are some interesting points from the HBR article. Please note that this is not a review of the book, but more of a points to remember from the HBR article. The book is still in my ‘to be read’ list. 
  • Human beings have basic skepticism about new ideas.
  • Getting buy-in for good ideas is a basic human issue; it’s a life skill.
  • While people may get ideas in a jiffy, formalizing the idea is an analytical task.
  • Gaining support for the idea means getting into the human nature and group dynamics territory
  • Due to information overload, getting people's attention within a short span of time is very important.
  • The real question is' How do you get people's attention so that they understand and embrace a really good solution to a problem?’.
  • Most of the people respond to attacks on ideas with data and logic.
  • Respond to counter attacks/arguments with respect. Keep responses short, simple, clear and filled with common sense.
  • The motives of the people who oppose the ideas doesn’t matter.
  • When responding to attacks on your idea, take the role of a statesman.
  • It helps since people will be sympathetic to your idea, listen and move sympathetically towards you.
  • There are four ways in which people can kill your ideas
    • Fear Mongering
    • Delay
    • Confusion
    • Ridicule
  • The above four ways manifests itself through 24 different queries. Some of them, I could relate to, are given below
    • Money [or some other problem a proposal does not address] is the only real issue.
    • What’s the hidden agenda here?
    • What about this, and that, and this, and that...?
    • It’s too simplistic to work.
    • No one else does this.
    • Aha! What about THIS? [“this” being a worrisome thing that the proposers know nothing about and the attackers keep secret until just the right moment]
    • People have too many concerns.
    • Tried that before—didn’t work.
    • It’s too difficult to understand.
    • Good idea, but the timing is wrong.
    • It won’t work here. We’re different.
    • You’ll never convince enough people.
    • We’re simply not equipped to do this.
  • Broad rule of thumb for responding to attacks
    • Let the trouble makers in and treat them with respect
    • Communicate in ways that are simple, clear.
    • Don’t make it personal.
    • Watch the whole group and not focus on the person attacking your ideas.
    • Don’t short cut your preparation.
Kotter has the following to say about how great leaders sell ideas.

Great Leaders
  • Know how to communicate in simpler and clearer ways ( this is not dumbing down)
  • Use short stories about something that people could relate to, to sell your ideas.
  • Know selling ideas is not about just intellectual stuff.
  • Know selling ideas is not just about pounding people with data.
  • Know it is all about hitting at an emotional level. and engaging people
I find the article very interesting and it has got me thinking. I definitely recommend the article and the book to anyone who has ideas to sell. For me, getting people to listen to my ideas and ensuring that the idea gets implemented, is one of the most pleasurable moments in life :). I am sure the book will help me learn some tricks. Beyond that it is just a matter of practice, practice and more practice in selling ideas.

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