By Eve Ash
How often does someone at a staff meeting put forward a badly-needed idea for improvement and then get met with blank silence? Often one objection about ‘a waste of resources’ makes the leader switch topics, and the idea contributor is left feeling flat.
What did they do wrong? Nothing, but this experience can be surprisingly common, particularly for those who are good at coming up with ideas.
Despite the innovation rhetoric we hear around us, it’s not always the case that a timely or laterally-minded proposal is welcomed, even by those who would benefit. Why?
Because very often, some people simply don’t get it right away. They can’t or haven’t bothered to go beyond the fact that there’s a problem which needs solving, or they don’t welcome someone shaking up the status quo. Surprisingly, even when an office is unhappy, people clutch the mental chains that bind them — they prefer to complain rather than do something.
An idea contributor has to take this in stride and be prepared to keep ‘seeding the ground.’ You can get others to listen and impress them with your ideas by attempting the following:
Developing your idea more
Imagine you have an idea – you have put it forward and no one listened. Go back to the drawing board, add refinements, monitor opportunities and similar developments elsewhere, and also note other company areas which would likewise benefit from your idea.
Develop the applications and benefits of the idea. Think it through, plot it out, and be prepared to engage with follow-up if no one is listening at first.
Prepare an elevator pitch to ensure your idea sounds great. Build an example of how your idea will look, a prototype or something you can demonstrate or show visually. People absorb new information in a range of different ways, but a good old-fashioned demonstration is still a great way to explain what’s involved.
Building alliances over time
Talk about your idea one on one, grow the idea, and get alignment from others. A bright idea, poorly researched, can definitely fall flat. You may see someone else’s good idea fail, simply because they weren’t reading the office signals carefully enough.
Wasting money and time on expensive consultants is no solution if you haven’t bothered to first discuss issues and ideas with your team. They could have perfectly good ideas that have been conveniently ignored because someone didn’t see them as authoritative enough on the subject.
You may need to wait several weeks for the right opening to bring up your idea for the first time, or again. Be prepared to bide time and keep refining the pitch to members of the team and unbiased 3rd parties. All this extra work gives you more engagement potential.
Own and share your idea
Innovative people are frequently ripped off in this competitive world of ours, which is sad and unconscionable. There’s unscrupulous types out there who are only too ready to take credit for someone else’s brainwave. Make sure that enough colleagues know where an idea came from if you’re its originator.
Involve others in developing your initiative – collaboration builds a positive culture.
Grab the moment
All that time spent researching and waiting will prove valuable when a big opportunity arises. Maybe you will cross paths with a decision maker in the hallway, or catch up for coffee. There could be a chance to talk to a high level leadership team, or when the CEO asks for staff feedback. That’s when you are ready and rehearsed.
The reaction can sometimes be very exciting. You know they’ve heard and valued your idea when you’re asked for an implementation plan and costs to roll things out within the current financial year.
The beauty of powerful ideas whose time has come, to quote French author Victor Hugo, is that they can be “stronger than armies.” Celebrate them if you have them, give them strength if you perceive them, seize them gratefully if they’re put forward. Enjoy the changes they bring.
Learn how to create a workplace that is open and excited about new ideas in this free webinar with Eve Ash and Mark Bowles:
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specializing in training resources for the workplace. This article appeared first here.