Anyone who has experienced the frustration of others just "not getting it!" knows how critical team buy-in is for the success of an idea.
Most leaders say they want innovation. And yet, when you pitch them new ideas, their default answer is “no,” claiming that either resources and staff are stretched, or now is simply not the best time. In effect, this means, “I love change, but don’t change anything I decided”
So, how can the intrapreneurs, the innovative types drive change that’s successful for the company and their careers?
When we talk about “selling” an idea, we simply refer to winning over support from decision-makers, colleagues, or even from those reporting to us or other stakeholders.
To put things into perspective, selling an idea can be done in three directions:
- Up: to managers, leaders, executives
- Down: to those who report to you
- Laterally: to coworkers or other stakeholders like experts on a topic, thought leaders within the organization, and so on.
If you want to sell your idea, you should exercise influence by inviting participation. This yields better results and encourages collaboration.
Persuasion is about getting someone to do things your way while influence is about working together with someone towards something new.
So, first thing first, be patient and learn your way around the company, and more importantly, the people within. Different people have different motivations in their work. Pay attention to what these motivators are.
Whether you have a bold idea for a new line of products or a less obvious suggestion for incremental improvements, you often still need to have the foundation and plan your tactic. Here’s what you would need:
Fundamentally, you need to be very good at your core job. You have to have expertise in something, whether it’s finance or IT, marketing or HR, sales or whatever.
- You also need to understand the business and culture overall. Keep abreast of your industry trends, notice what your company funds (initiatives, campaigns, events they sponsor, staff additions, acquisitions). These speak volumes about what the company values.
- Create a string of undeniable successes, including small wins that build trust. They earn you “permission” to try bolder strategies.
Your expertise and your “wins” — and the metrics that reflect them — will give you foundational credibility. You will need more. Taking on assignments outside your job description, including online courses out of your own curiosity adds to your portfolio and your credibility.
It’s not always the brainstorming sessions or group activities that yield the best results. Get out there, meet people, build relationships, ask questions to understand the topic, and get inspired by their feedback. This will help you shape your idea better and gather support. By listening carefully to their answers, beneath the words, you hear what motivates and inspires your colleagues, so you can meet them where they are.
You now need to find a balance between a pragmatic, data-based approach and clever use of emotions that help your personality (along with your idea) shine through. Here are some steps you can take in introducing new ideas in your organization:
Whether you know a way to automate a process, how to save money, or improve aspects of corporate culture, you should always explain the “why” behind your idea. Not all problems have a simple, straightforward solution. Sometimes, you need more brainpower to provide different perspectives on how to fix things. This will prevent poor decisions along the way.
That’s why the preparation work is so important. Involve others in the development of your idea, talk to stakeholders and coworkers in advance to get them on board. This takes us to our next point.
Whether you’re proposing purchasing a new piece of technology or creating a new internal innovation team, chances are time and money investments will be necessary. If that’s the case, backing up your assumptions with facts and demonstrating the return on investment will go a long way.
When a new idea requires a new set of rules, it’s crucial to test your idea against multiple possible outcomes. For example, if you’re changing the way employees spend their time, what happens to the work that now must be neglected to focus on this new idea?
Who will be in charge of enforcing potential new policies and how might that change company dynamics? These are questions you’ll be asked, so be prepared.
Any excitement your team may have over your fresh new idea will fall flat if executing that idea requires a tight timeline, longer hours, or convoluted success metrics. Start small with even the biggest ideas. Demonstrate what short-term success and victory milestones look like when you pitch your idea.
Breaking the idea up into small, achievable intervals and celebrating those wins won’t make the end goal feel so esoteric or daunting.
Momentum is key to getting projects off the ground. Do the simple things early to instill faith that your idea has legs.
When a leader pitches an idea down the chain that’s tied to the organization’s vision, it reinforces the direction the company is going and strengthens trust. Similarly, employees who go to management with their ideas can speak the language of leadership and demonstrate their commitment to the company.
You want to begin the conversation by being able to say something like, “you know, the organization has the business goals of A, B, and C. I’ve got an idea that I think will fit perfectly.”
We can learn a lot from our mistakes, but also from others’ mistakes. Communication and human interactions in the business context are very complex so identifying patterns that lead to failure is not so straightforward. Even so, there are still things you can pay attention to, to minimize risks and increase your odds of succeeding.
The steps you take and the research you do before presenting your idea will help you determine who is directly affected by the changes you suggest. If you risk upsetting or threatening someone’s position, try a different approach.
You’ve had this idea for a long time, and you think you figured it all out. Sometimes our biases stand in the way and affect our judgment. Not listening to feedback is a common mistake. Don’t fall in love with your “perfect” idea and stay open to others contributing towards its development.
The point should be to improve something for the benefit of the organization. If it’s your idea and all about you and your benefit, you won’t get far.
Getting others on boards and giving them credit for their contribution will enhance their motivation and commitment. After all, this is what it means to be a good team player.
The more you try to improve your idea and the delivery process, and the more ideas you try to sell, the higher the chances are you will succeed. Look at your own process like you’re developing a product. Apply the same steps: build your hypothesis, validate your assumptions in the preparation work, test it within your circle, department, or business unit and learn from feedback.
Expect the unexpected. It will likely take longer and end up looking different than your initial idea, tweaked (improved!) by your colleagues, and with lots of twists and turns along the way.
By continuously working on this you will soon realize that not all ideas are worth pursuing and it’s very important to choose your battles.
That’s the journey of an intrapreneur. It’s complicated, risky, fun — and rewarding.
Originally published at https://www.saugaatallabadi.com on February 1, 2022.