But here’s the problem:
If you have an idea that can improve the way your company does something, that’s fantastic. This is how all companies and organizations improve and the best ideas don’t always come from the top.
Getting buy-in from the people who matter can be trickier than you think. It’s an incredibly common problem that we see happen across a number of industries and in companies of all sizes.
Why is this the case? Shouldn’t it be as simple as bringing a good idea to the right person?
There are two main reasons why good ideas wither and die in organizations on a regular basis. Let’s explore those first, and then dig into how you can navigate around these issues.
Reason 1: Poor Framework For Sharing And Promoting Ideas
This is probably the most common reason why a strong idea doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Luckily it’s something you can work around if needed, but it sure can be frustrating.
A poor framework for sharing ideas can make it incredibly difficult to get anything done. Most of the time it’s not intentional and it’s merely a result of a traditional corporate hierarchy that creates barriers that stop insight from being passed around.
A common example of this is when someone comes up with an idea that they believe can help the company improve. They then pass it along to their manager (which is typically the recommended course of action) for them to distribute further up the chain.
The issue with this is the “telephone effect” plus a lack of incentive to promote the idea.
Even if the manager passed it along to their direct report and then THEY did the same thing until it got into the hands of a decision-maker, there’s a problem. The essence of the idea can get diluted into something that hurts the pitch when it matters most.
The summary of a summary hardly resembles the original idea.
This is far more likely to happen the larger the company is. With every additional layer, you add friction that can slow change and the likelihood of implementing a new process.
The lack of incentive is another reason why this structure tends to fail when it comes to promoting quality ideas. Your direct report (and theirs) might not have as much to gain as you do by fighting for this idea.
This shouldn’t be the case and a successful team in business will always help each other out, but it’s a common problem. It’s also human nature as well.
Everyone typically looks out for their own interests and core responsibilities first, before helping others. This means if you give your manager a killer idea, you shouldn’t expect them to fight for it as you would.
Reason 2: Credit-Stealing Or Suppression (The Nasty Stuff)
This is unfortunately the other common reason why good ideas don’t turn into what they should be. It’s not a fun one to talk about because it really shouldn’t happen, but the reality is it does all the time.
There are some managers and people higher up in the chain who might not have your best interests at heart. This is typically because they’re worried about you taking their job, or leapfrogging them and nabbing a promotion that they wanted for themselves.
When this happens there’s usually one of two reactions to being presented with a strong idea. The first is to try and take credit for it to try and advance their position in the company. The second is to just ignore it and do nothing when it comes to championing the idea that you have.
While it’s sad that this is something you have to consider, it’s the world we live in. We’re not trying to make you paranoid or pessimistic with this information. We just want you to be prepared.
Here’s How You Sell Your Idea
With this information in mind, it’s time to talk about how you can effectively promote a strong idea within your company and get it taken seriously. Don’t worry, you won’t have to resort to any trickery or Game of Thrones-level backstabbing.
Make It Bulletproof
This is easily the most important component of getting your idea taken seriously. It’s quite common for someone to champion their idea without being completely prepared. This leads to subpar results (at best).
When we say make your idea “bulletproof” we’re talking about doing the work and making sure it’s really good. It doesn’t have to be a game-changing breakthrough, but whatever it is you want to be darn sure it’s strong.
This means you should do whatever you can to address any foreseeable objections before pitching it. Get as much data as you can to support your idea and acquire as much potential feedback from helpful coworkers as you can as well.
If your idea doesn’t make it past this process without getting tons of holes poked in it, then it might not be worth pitching to others yet. Keep at it until it’s ready!
If your idea is bulletproof and ready to go, it’s time for you to fight for it. Remember, you might have to overcome some of the natural hurdles we mentioned earlier. You can do this by not giving up.
Don’t pass along your idea and hope for the best. Share it with the right people (in writing so you have a record of it) and then follow up periodically. Many people give up after the initial step of sharing their idea and it kills any chance of seeing it implemented in the company.
Follow up either by email or request a meeting. Make it known that you’re passionate about discussing it and offer any help you can to make it easy for this to happen.
If you know you have a bulletproof idea and you think that it’s not being taken seriously (or blocked by someone higher up in the food chain) then you have a decision to make. You can either live with it and play it safe, or take some chances.
We’re not saying one is right and another is wrong. Your level of risk tolerance when it comes to your standing in the company is something only you can decide.
If you decide that you want to take a shot and fight for your idea a bit more aggressively, there is something else you can try. This is reaching out to other people in the company who have enough influence to help you get heard. Ideally, these should be people who you have a good relationship with.
The risk in this is potentially causing a rift between you and your direct report in the company. However, if they were killing or taking credit for your idea then they aren’t someone you’re likely to be able to rely on in the future.
If your idea is solid and you have the facts to back it up, there’s a good chance that it will be heard by someone else. Don’t say that you think your idea isn’t being taken seriously by your manager. Instead, phrase it like you thought these new people would be the ideal people to bring this to.
We hope that this will help you get your idea implemented at your organization and make a significant impact. Navigating the corporate world can be frustrating at times, but it’s only a matter of time before good work shines.