It starts so innocently.
First, someone throws out a bit of earnest, but inefficient thinking:
“We can solve the problem by doing it this way!”
The problem is fixed for a while, but not solved. It becomes clear there are holes in the process. Everyone knows it. You point out there may be a better way, BUT THEN:
Pride — “What makes your idea any better than mine?”
Comfort — “We’ve been doing it this way for years”
Laziness — “This process is just fine. Why change?”
Corporate zombies cling to old ideas tighter than the Trump family to their claimed innocence of plagiarism.
Generally, there are two ways to have a chance at your ideas reaching reality.
- “Outrank” whoever you’re talking to
- Sell them on your idea*
*Notice: “have the best idea” does not appear on this list.*
The first one is B.S. It’s situational, and you’re crippled the second you move jobs, change careers, or go into a room where you are no longer the biggest fish.
Really, there’s only one choice, no matter if you are a CEO, an engineer, or an intern.
Sell your idea.
First, gather up all the data and statistics you have on how your problem is better. Make sure to draw up a brilliant excel bar chart illustrating the difference in output once your solution takes hold.
Then, throw all that data away and do these things instead:
Appeal to Emotion
Most of the time, people don’t make changes based on analytics. They make them with their hearts. Remember pride, comfort, and laziness? Those are all emotions. Plan to replace them with:
Rapport — “This guy isn’t so bad. Maybe he’s not trying to get my job after all.”
Curiosity — “Maybe there is a better way…”
Motivation — “That doesn’t seem so hard. We can do that!”
Instead of statistics, tell a story. Tell the story of Joe, the front line employee who loses an hour of his day every day running a report which you could generate in five minutes.
Tell a story of a competing company who has a severe gap of which you can take advantage.
Don’t tell the story of your idea. Tell the story of what the company can bewith your idea.
In other words:
Seek a Trial Basis Approach
I think it’s safe to say Sim City is a fairly successful game series.
What’s interesting though, is how EA approached the relaunch of the series only a few years ago.
In 2013, knowing they weren’t going into the same world they stepped in with the original, EA wanted to try something interesting.
He knew several companies had been experimenting with the idea of “A/B Testing,” that is, trying different user experiences to see which one worked better.
One page had a massive banner across the top which read “Pre-order and get $20 off your next order!” EA believed, like so many of us do, that an incentive (bait) for a certain product will increase the desire to purchase that product.
Strangely enough, the game didn’t sell as they thought it should, and there weren’t many people biting on the bait.
Instead, the EA team removed the banner completely (what? no bait??) and waited.
What they saw was a 43% increase in purchases.
Remember — very few ideas are all or nothing commitments. The phrase “let’s try it and see if we get better results” can be very powerful indeed.
Keep going, even when others won’t
Sometimes, no matter what you do, people won’t get it.
That’s fine, though. If they “got it,” they wouldn’t need you.
Remember this — you are always the biggest advocate for your ideas.
WAIT! Don’t risk your job for your pride if you aren’t in a position to. There are plenty of unemployed idealists.
Instead, act like a mad scientist. Set up conditions for your own “trial basis” effort. Always experiment to see what works better than what you have. Is there another solution? Is it easy to implement? Will it work for your business? Is your idea going to grow with the company?
When you answer these questions on a small scale, doing so on a larger one suddenly seems a lot less risky to the higher ups.
Those of you who are quick to notice patterns may have noticed another corporate staple I’ve employed here — the acronym A.S.K.
- Appeal to emotion
- Seek a trial basis
- Keep going when others won’t
Which brings me to another key option for getting your ideas recognized:
Ask when you know you can make a difference.
Ask in the face of your fear.
Perhaps, most importantly, ask because nobody else will.