How to sell ideas into your organisation? Make them more robust

By Natalie Turner, Author, Yes You Can Innovate

From my research, I have discovered a pattern, those that are good at IGNITING ideas, often are not so good at INVESTING in them and find it hard to influence others, get traction and make ideas work. This article outlines a few tips on how you can get better at influencing those that could help you make ideas work.

The Six ’I’s® of innovation

Innovating is a journey where an idea travels through six distinct phases. Each phase needs different ways of thinking and a different set of skills. Like any journey, an idea can get lost, meet a dead end or have to turn around and retrace its steps, but overall it needs to go through each phase to move from being just a creative idea to becoming a successful innovation.

  • IDENTIFY with the mindset of CURIOSITY to spot opportunities by understanding trends and customer needs.
  • IGNITE with the mindset of CREATIVITY by creating novel solutions.
  • INVESTIGATE with the mindset of CRITICAL thinking, by developing propositions, prototyping and testing.
  • INVEST with the mindset of COURAGE by creating business models and plans for investment.
  • IMPLEMENT with the mindset of COMMITMENT by bringing an idea to life and creating value.
  • IMPROVE with the mindset of being CLEVER by optimising an idea into another area of opportunity.

Each person has a unique way of innovating, that is high on some ‘I’s and low on others. If you are an IGNITER you like change and diversity and enjoy connecting ideas to create new ways of thinking, you also thrive in an environment that allows this to happen. This is different to an IMPLEMENTER who wants to see action and traction with what they are working on, is more practical in their outlook and focuses on what is achievable. We need both skill sets to make innovation happen. What is important is that each person’s strengths are aligned around a common PURPOSE so that they can harness diversity towards an aligned objective.

INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS are the gardeners who prune and shape an idea with critical thinking and thought-through detail. They ultimately want to create something that can withstand the real world. It can be emotionally difficult for IGNITERS to offer up their ideas to the robust and detailed thinking of INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS, as this requires a degree of vulnerability. It can be demoralising when your ideas don’t make it through intense analysis. If there is too much critical thinking however, too early on, ideas are in danger of never getting off the ground.

Knowing when to present an idea to more rigorous thinking is an important influencing skill an IGNITER needs to learn, particularly if they work in environments that value and develop critical thinking over creativity.   

In October last year, I was the Keynote speaker at InnovationDB Masterclass in London. Within the speech I took a poll. You can see from the graphs below that 24% of people thought their organisations were good or extremely good at stimulating a mindset of creativity, whilst 59% thought their organisations were good or extremely good at stimulating critical thinking. Yet most people in the room considered themselves as IGNITERS.

If this is the case in your organisation, here are some tips you can try on ‘how to sell ideas’:

  • Get input from INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS early on, not necessarily in the form of their critical thinking, but perhaps in the form of clear constraints or guidelines you can use in your ideation processes to help focus where to look for new ideas and solutions.
  • Involve INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS during the prototyping stages of design thinking, to gather customer feedback and to observe how your ideas are being received by potential users or customers. Help them see the value of what it is you are creating.
  • As far as you can, think thorough counter arguments to objections you might face so that you can make your idea more robust. This will help to give the idea it’s best chance of success (you can check out the INVESTIGATOR tools in my book to see what might help you).
  • Understand that if an INVESTIGATOR or INVESTOR starts talking over the detail of your idea, it may mean that they are excited by it; so feel encouraged.
  • See INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS as on the same gardening team – you germinate the ideas and they grow them. All are equally important.
  • Accept that not all your ideas will work in the real world, even your favourite one – and that you are not the best person to evaluate that.
  • Practice being gritty and have the courage to be vulnerable. This will help to build up your resilience. Keep offering up ideas even when it is difficult to do so. Without good ideas, innovation doesn’t happen.

How can you persuade others to take up your ideas and champion them?

You need to understand how other people perceive the world and how they approach innovation. If they are INVESTIGATORS or INVESTORS then you need their help to think through the details of how an idea might work. Grit and resilience, along with a growth mindset to develop your critical thinking skills, will go a long way. Your ideas will get stronger, and this will increase the chance that it will become an innovation that will have an impact in the real world.

**********

This article was written by Natalie Turner and originally published in Idea Drop on August 1st, 2019