Ideas are like chewable coffee beans; they stimulate, invigorate and pow! In a sterile or stony setting, however, they also wither for want of interest and understanding.
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 ideas person is left feeling flat for days afterwards. What did they do wrong? Nothing, but this experience can be surprisingly common, particularly for those who are good with ideas.
People often prefer to complain than solve problems
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 there is 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 than do something.
How can you impress with your ideas?
The ideas person has to take this in their stride and be prepared to keep ‘seeding the ground’. You can impress others 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. Develop the applications and benefits of the idea. Think it through, plot it out, be prepared to engage with follow-up if at first no one is listening.
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, get alignment from others. A bright idea, poorly researched, definitely can go bung. Equally, someone else’s good idea can 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 “get under the bonnet” with your team (who may have perfectly good ideas that you’ve conveniently ignored because it came from Bess the receptionist, or Mayan in payroll).
You may need to wait several weeks for the right opening. Be prepared to bide time and keep refining the pitch to members of the team and even outsiders. All this extra work gives you engagement potential.
Own and share your idea
Ideas 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, if you’re the ideas person, that enough colleagues know where it came from. Equally, involve others in developing your initiative, but don’t be precious. Collaboration builds a positive culture.
Grab the moment
The waiting time and research will prove valuable when a big opportunity arises. Maybe you will cross paths with a decision maker in the corridor, or catch up for a coffee. There could be a chance to talk to a high level leadership team, or the CEO asks for staff feedback. That’s when you are ready and rehearsed. The reaction can sometimes be very exciting. You know you’ve achieved when you are asked for an implementation plan and costings 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.