4 Tips for Getting Your Ideas Accepted

A good idea is a valuable asset, and a lot of good ideas are a treasure trove. But what do you do with those ideas? Here’s a little story about an idea maker who isn’t very good at getting his ideas accepted…and 4 tips to keep your own ideas from withering on the vine.

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Ron was full of ideas. Good ones, too—or at least he thought so. He had ideas about how team members should organize their work, how to report status, how to speed up the build, and a way to save money on white board markers, to name a few.

But, Ron’s teammates hadn’t picked up on his wonderful ideas. In fact, to Ron’s eyes, they had rejected them out of hand. So, he persisted, arguing why his ideas were a better way.

Eventually, another developer agreed to try Ron’s idea for speeding up the build and asked Ron to work on it with him. Ron refused. “I don’t want to get saddled with the extra work,” he huffed. “That’s like punishing me for having good ideas.” The other developer quickly lost interest.

Many ideas wither, not because they are bad ideas, but because of clumsy presentation. Few people are as inept as Ron; but most nascent ideas stand a better chance if you remember these four things:

1. It’s not about you.

Most of the time, people pursue a new idea because they can see how it will help them. Don’t just tell them why you think your idea is a good one. See the world from their point of view, and frame the idea in terms of what matters to them. If your manager cares only about cost, then talking about quality, speed, reuse, or elegance won’t convince him to try your idea. Connect your idea with what’s important to the people you are hoping to influence.

2. It is about who you know.

Bringing your ideas to fruition is a social process. You will need the aid and interest of others to make your idea reality.

Take stock of your network. Who can help you move the idea forward? Who has influence with people who might champion the idea? What do the people who hold formal and informal power care about? Can your idea help them advance their goals?

3. Action creates attraction.

Rather than pushing your ideas on people, try pulling them in—work by attraction. If you think a team task board would help everyone do better, show them; don’t just tell them. Demonstrate the benefits by creating your own task board and making your progress visible. The time to tell is when someone shows curiosity, not before.

There’s another benefit of showing: You might learn something useful about the how the organization will respond to your idea. Suppose you make your own kanban board and start limiting your own work in process. If your manager increases his scrutiny of your work or berates you for not working hard enough, you’ve obtained valuable information—information that will help you move your idea forward (or choose not to move it forward and look for a new manager, instead).

4. Timing is everything.

Your idea might be good but not viable in this organization at this particular time. An experiment—such as the personal kanban board—can reveal what else needs to change for your idea to succeed.

Sometimes people and groups aren’t ready for an idea. They may not have the prerequisite knowledge to appreciate it, or they may be working from a different mental model in which there’s no place for your idea to fit. In this case, you need to prepare the ground with conversations (sometimes many) before planting the seed of your idea.

When you are brand new to a group, you may see many opportunities for improvement. But, ideas from an outsider can feel like implied criticism. After all, how could an outsider understand the tribulations the team is facing? Show you understand by offering an idea to solve something the group views as a problem, not something you see as a problem. Once the team sees that you can solve their problems, they’ll be more likely to listen to your other ideas.

Sometimes a great idea comes a few seconds too late. When a team has too many ideas, they may feel overwhelmed. Or, as team members chase each shiny, new idea, those ideas may not stick. When the team is close to a decision and a new idea enters the mix, the team goes back into analysis, examining the new idea.

You may have an even better idea, but sometimes it’s best to hold that for the next round and get on with implementing “good enough.”

Ron continued to generate ideas—ideas that usually involved more work for other people, and no ownership on his part. His teammates continued to ignore his ideas until one day someone told him to just shut up. So, if you want to stay out of the Ron trap, remember these four points—it’s not about you, it is about who you know, action creates attraction, timing is everything. I can’t guarantee that all your excellent ideas will come to fruition, but many will. And you’ll been seen as someone who knows how to make things happen.

This article first appeared on stickyminds.com.

6 thoughts on “4 Tips for Getting Your Ideas Accepted

  1. you have good points here.. and are things I have learned over time. I think the example you have about having to do more work because its your idea.. I think its part of the idea process. You cannot just throw an idea out there and expect people to run with it. If you have come up with the idea you have to have the passion to see it through. I think that is where most people fail. You need to treat the idea like how you want others to treat it.

    The one category that you have not mentioned here is listening. Listening is an important skill. You have to listen to others ideas and also listen to feedback/criticism. You have to to learn to accept others idea equally. If you thrown an idea out there remember others are doing it to and you have to be open to listen to them. Also if its your idea others may be able to add tweaks to it and let it grow. You cannot sit on it and say no this is how I want it. You have to let the idea grow with your team/project/people, etc. I dont think listening is the right title… its more like have an open mind. Open mind to listen to others idea, open mind to take feedback positively, open mind to let the idea grow and open mind that not all your ideas will turn into something.

    1. Two additional tips then:

      Leave room for others to add their fingerprints. Even good ideas can be improved. Be willing to let others build on what you’ve started and add refinements. You’ll have the advantage of other points of view that will catch things you missed and they’ll be more committed to the idea.

      Reciprocate. We’ve all met people who argue against YOUR idea until they convince themselves and then believe THEY thought of it. You’ll build better relationships and have more allies if you recognize that you are not the only source of good ideas. Listen to others’ ideas and support them. They’ll be more likely to give your next brainstorm a fair hearing and help move it forward.

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