This is the fifth in 5 blog posts I will be doing on Adam Grant’s fantastic book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”
A big part of my job is to research new technologies and determine how they can be leveraged to engage as many students as possible in thinking, planning, and reflecting on their student employment and cooperative education.
In this post I’d like to suggest 2 pro tips to get other people to believe in your original ideas:
- If we want people to accept our original ideas, we need to speak up about them, then rise and repeat.
- Lead with the limitations of an idea: it makes you look smart.
When Facebook launched Farmville, I created a Facebook scavenger hunt game called OSAville (for the Office of Student Affairs). When Snapchat filters were big, I researched OpenCV and Python and created a computer vision visualization that superimposed a green mustache on the viewer. And when students commented that our social media posts were sounding too “businessy,” I created a Twitter clone and had a contest to find out who could write the best tweet.
Each idea required careful study to determine what outcomes I wanted to generate. On top of that, I had to pitch the idea to my supervisors. Some might say this is the hardest part of creating original ideas,
“This is the core challenge of speaking up with an original idea. When you present a new suggestion, you’re not only hearing the tune in your head. You wrote the song. You’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months, or maybe even years thinking about the idea. You’ve contemplated the problem, formulated the solution, and rehearsed the vision. You know the lyrics and the melody of your idea by heart. By that point, it’s no longer possible to imagine what is sounds like to an audience that’s listening to it for the first time.” – Adam Grant
That’s not to say that all of my ideas were approved. Some were approved the first time and some took more research and reframing to get at the heart of the idea.
Grant likens this necessary process to “the exposure effect – the more often we encounter something, the more we like it.”
Grant also provides step by step details on how to bring up your original idea often:
“Liking continues to increase as people are exposed to an idea between ten and twenty times, with additional exposure still useful for more complex ideas. Interestingly, exposures are more effective when they’re short and mixed with other ideas, to help maintain the audiences curiosity. It’s also best to introduce a delay between the presentation of the idea and the evaluation of it, which provides time for it to sink in. If you’re making a suggestion to a boss, you might start with a 30-second elevator pitch during a conversation on Tuesday, revisit it briefly the following Monday, and then ask for feedback at the end of the week.” – Adam Grant
His final tip on getting your ideas pitched and approved over time is to do something irrational – start with reasons why this is a stupid idea, why it’ll never work, or why it’s doomed to fail.
“When you are pitching a novel idea or speaking up with a suggestion for change, your audience is likely to be skeptical. Investors are looking to poke holes in your arugments; mangers are hunting for a reason why your suggestion won’t work. Under those circumstances, for at least four reasons, it’s actually more effective to adopt powerless communication by accentuating the flaws in your idea.” – Adam Grant
Why does this irrational approach work? Grant goes on to explain,
“When we’re aware that someone is trying to persuade us, we naturally raise our mental shields. Rampant confidence is a red flag – a signal that we need to defend ourselves against weapons of influence.” – Adam Grant
So maybe starting with the worst parts of your idea is better than looking like you discovered the fountain of youth:
“Unbridled optimism comes across as salesmanship; it seems dishonest somehow, and as a consequence it’s met with skepticism. Everyone is allergic to the feeling, or suspicious of being sold.” – Adam Grant
Be a prophet of doom with a killer idea:
“When people presented drawbacks or disadvantages, I would become an ally. Instead of selling me, they’ve given me a problem to solve. Prophets of doom and gloom appear wise and insightful while positive statements are seen as having a naive polyanna quality.” – Adam Grant
So now you know: you’re going to need to repeat your original ideas over and over again before other people start to accept them. Now you also know to lead with the potential deal-breaking attributes of your idea to look less manipulative.
I hope this post helped equip you for going out there and selling your ideas. Got any questions? Contact me.