Trying to sell your ideas within a corporation isn’t always easy. You have to contend with politics, egos, bureaucracy, and other assorted barriers.
With that in mind, I put together the following information a couple of years ago for my team. Some of it is influenced by Seth Godin’s book Free Prize Inside, which lists lots of great idea promotion techniques.
- This is not about how to come up with great ideas
- This is about how to promote your ideas
- Your job is to come up with great, viable, & successful ideas
Ideas Are Easy
- There are a million great ideas out there
- There are a million bad ideas out there too
- Lots of websites give you free ideas almost every day
- People at your company may be bursting with ideas already (maybe)
- Your company’s problem isn’t generating ideas, it’s choosing which ones to implement
- Your problem isn’t how to sell your idea, it’s getting your idea through the clutter of other ideas
Be an Idea Champion
Understand People & Politics
- Understand the other person’s point of view of life, frame of mind
- Consider the person’s background, culture, social standing, economic status, religion, family, ethnicity, etc.
- Consider personality typing tools (Jung, Myers-Briggs, Keirsey)
- Be aware of non-verbal communication & cues
- Understand the other person’s goals & motivations
- Be aware of what the pesson wants from life, from you, or from this particular deal. What matters to this person? Money, fame, reputation, a promotion, etc?
- Find out who the true influencers are; these aren’t always the top executives (though usually they are); sometimes, it can also be a project manager or a low-level product manager, or even an administrative assistant
- E.g. The executives of a major company wanted innovation. Unfortunately, below them were some senior managers who were afraid of upsetting the status quo and hurting their stock options because they were already making a fortune on them. They wouldn’t let any new ideas through if they hurt the status quo. These senior managers were the true influencers, not the top executives. A way to approach them is to understand their motivations and show that, by not embracing this idea, the status quo would be broken because competitors would do it better.
Convince Others That Your Idea is Great
- Not just good, but great
- Do some research and gather statistics to back-up the potential success of your idea
- Show them your vision, describe the future where your idea is a reality
- Tell them the emotional impact of your idea, get them energized about it
- The goal is not to prove beyond a doubt that your idea will work; that may be impossible to prove. The goal is to go through the necessary steps for your colleagues to believe that your idea will work
- Understand what motivates people (which ties into politics)
- Some want a cool challenge
- Some like the geek factor of new technology
- Some like being the first-to-market
- Some want to push the stock price up
- Some like making their own jobs more secure
- Some want to make the world a better place
- Some want public recognition
Convince Others That You Can Make This Happen
- Build your reputation as a leader, an Idea Champion
- Start small (plan a small event, like a team lunch)
- Increase your responsibilities (take on increasingly more difficult tasks)
- Take ownership of difficult, complex problems (own them from identification to resolution)
- Be proactive about problem-solving (if you notice a problem happening frequently that no one else has identified yet, step up to find a solution)
- Consider volunteering to champion someone else’s idea (to help prove yourself and gain a political ally)
- Consider learning about project management, marketing, engineering lifecycles, etc; (give yourself the right skills to see your idea through)
Good luck, champ!