Sometimes, our great ideas are the result of careful planning or structured brainstorming. Other times, they come to us only after long periods of mulling things over, examining every angle, considering our options. Then there are the ideas that wake you up, excited and ready to rock, right from a dead sleep. I've literally been jolted awake at night with crazy, epic, awesome ideas--and when this happens, you want to get a jump on it right away. These might be the ideas you're most passionate about (OMG it came out of nowhere and it's AMAZING), but it can be really difficult to get your coworkers on board with something that came right out of the blue. It's particularly difficult if your idea is counterintuitive or way outside the realm of how you usually conduct business (even if that's exactly what your company needs). Even if it's been in the world for a while, you may have some colleagues resistant to new ideas or rapid change. Your ability to see a positive outcome doesn't translate directly into your co-workers' ability to understand your vision. Like it or not, if you want to move forward, you're going to have to get your coworkers on board at some point. Even if they drive you nuts. Even if they're not your favorite people. Within a company, it takes teamwork and a concerted effort to move the best ideas and big changes forward. Words are powerful, but it's not always what you say--often, the key to winning support for your ideas is in how you present them. Use these tips to get your coworkers on board the next time you have a stroke of genius:
1. Make It Their Idea
This really works. Sometimes, you have to be okay with not getting the credit. Picture it: you suggest something to a co-worker or family or friend and they dismiss the idea outright. But a week later, they have a terrific idea... and lo and behold, it's almost the same thing you said a week earlier. For example, you could print something out and leave it in the printer tray for a coworker to discover. Sure, you're planting the idea in their head a bit, but it can make them more receptive if they've been subtly introduced to the concept and have had a chance to digest it a bit. If you seek all the credit for all of your work, this suggestion might be a bitter pill to swallow. However,introverts andambiverts might actually prefer this, as you're letting someone else drive the car, but you're still giving the directions. Genius, right?!
2. Get Your Most Dynamic Coworker on Board
Sometimes, you don't have to win over the whole room--you just have to convince the one person everyone else listens to. We all have one at work--that one person people naturally gravitate to for advice and guidance because this person has all the answers. That's the person you need to go to before anyone else. Sell him or her on your idea, then sit back and watch it spread through the company!
3. Bring Only Your Best Ideas to the Table
Remember the boy who cried wolf? He grew up and became the man who drove his coworkers nuts because every idea he had was, "OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO DO THIS TODAY." Seriously, if you do this, stop. Your coworkers are just tuning you out. If everything you bring to the table seems urgent and you're not flexible or receptive to being turned down on occasion, you'll have to try even harder when you really have a winner. See if somewhere, someone is already applying your idea and use it to your advantage. Do your research. Most innovations are really just a new way to solve a problem, with a crazy idea to propel it to the next level.
4. Know Your Audience
Tailor your pitch to the coworkers you need to convince. Does the most influential one like theatre? Use a theatre analogy to tell the story of your idea. Is there a benefit for a certain team or department? Make it matter to them. People just don't tend to care unless it means something to them personally on some level. Whether it helps them be more efficient at work or makes them money or it's something they feel passionate about, find different analogies to frame your idea. Get your coworkers emotionally invested and excited about it by appealing to them on common ground.
5. Leave It Open-Ended
The worst mistake you can make is to marry your idea. If your product is already finished in your head and there's no room for negotiation or collaboration, what's the point of being part of a team? Make it clear you're open to improvements and even a complete change in direction if that's what comes out of the process of taking the idea further. And then... (and this is super important, guys) actually be open to change and feedback on your idea. Every great idea can still be improved upon in some way. If you know and accept this going in, chances are everyone will end up happy and on the same page and not deadlocked.