How to win support for a great idea

great ideaSo, you’ve got a great idea?

Your next move is to convince those around you that your idea is the way forward. This sounds easy, given that good ideas are the way that our planet moves forward. Innovation is the spark of life that sees us change and evolve. Right?

But humans are a peculiar species! Most of the time we function on the “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” rule and shy away from changes. As much as we all like to think we are forward-thinking and open to new ideas, in reality we still like our figuratively speaking, comfortable slippers in many respects!

When you have a great idea, sometimes it may involve concepts that are new or haven’t been tested. What seems like a revelation to you may sound like a risk to others.

It can be difficult to implement changes at work… but, if your idea is as good as you think it is, you have a responsibility to get it the air time it deserves. Here’s our guide to winning support for your great idea:

Get clear on the details of your great idea

You absolutely MUST know your idea inside out. By this, we mean get to know every angle of your proposal. You should investigate the impact of any changes from the perspectives of everyone affected.

Take time to write a list of everyone that the great idea will impact, in any way. Then list the effects on each group of people. If there are negative impacts, propose solutions to minimise any detrimental effects. Involve everyone who is touched by the change in any way.

Consider former US President Kennedy. In 1962, he told the American people, โ€œLetโ€™s put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.โ€ When Kennedy visited NASA and asked a toilet cleaner, โ€œWhat do you do here?โ€ the man said, โ€œIโ€™m helping to put a man on the moon, sir.โ€ That man was completely on-board with Kennedy’s idea!

How did President Kennedy succeed in getting people to support ideas?

Kennedy was relatable. You need to demonstrate the benefits of your idea to everyone who is involved with the idea – from the board of directors to the janitors.

Demonstrate the benefits

An academic study at Harvard Medical School called ‘Change or Die’ found that within six months of a heart operation, 90% of patients reverted to the behaviours that caused their poor health – smoking, eating fatty foods and so on โ€“ even though their doctor had told them, โ€œYou have to stop or you will die.โ€

Rational arguments were not enough to convince these people.

If rational arguments are not enough, what can we do to convince people? The answer lies in the 10% who did change their ways after their heart operation. It all boiled down to how the doctor framed the need for change to them.

What the doctor said to this 10% was,

Do you want to be able to play with your grandchildren without pain?”

Do you want to be able to go on long walks with your spouse, without having to carry an oxygen cylinder with you?”

Do you want to live a high-quality life?”

Then stop smoking.”

In other words, for people to embrace change, we have to show them a clear personal benefit.

Story-telling

One of the most effective and easy to implement strategies is to use story-telling to convince people. From childhood, we are programmed to listen to a story and to pick out the parts that cause problems, the solutions and the long-term benefits for the protagonists. Use the art of story-telling to explain three things:

  • The current problem

  • Implementing the changes

  • The benefits

Personalise your messaging

When using the story-telling technique – or any other messaging technique – ensure you have honed your message so that it is suitable for your particular audience. Use situations that are relevant to each group and make sure you are speaking to them in the language they use.

Propose a pilot for your great idea

A risk-free ‘try-out’ of your idea is always attractive. Offer this if you are able to, so that they can see the benefits quickly without any real risks.

At the end of the day, persevere. So many good and innovative ideas would have been swept away if the innovators had listened to the original feedback!

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