Selling an Idea

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Scott Berkun offers his advice on how to get one's boss to try new things. I think his advice is good, but think that there are more compelling reasons for considering it than he indicates in his two introductory paragraphs. Berkun's advice follows as bullet points below, but be aware that he elaborates on each within his post.

  1. Perform well at your job.
  2. Consider what problems your boss needs to solve.
  3. Match what you want to try to their goals.
  4. Get support from respected coworkers.
  5. Look for books and respected organizations that support the thing.
  6. Plan for a trial.
  7. Make the pitch.
  8. Work very hard to make the trial work.
There is a saying that took me some time to appreciate when I was young, along the lines of, "Don't bring problems to your boss."  Suppose your boss has no character flaws, such as a neurotic need to cling to power, or a fear of change. Your new idea -- no matter how good it is -- is, in a sense, a problem. It will take time and effort to understand and implement. How does your boss know this won't be a waste of time and a drain on his resources?

The above steps get him over this hump by establishing your credibility, helping him understand what you want to try and why, showing him that you have thought about how this new thing fits in with his objectives, making evaluation and implementation economical, and giving him the chance to make an informed decision as to whether the idea is actually good.

Of course, all of us have had less-than-ideal bosses. I think these suggestions also provide work-arounds in many cases. (e.g. Who is going to summarily kill off an idea that everyone he respects agrees is a good one?) That said, I think it is useful to view your new idea from the perspective of someone who hasn't heard of it, and could lose big time by putting it into practice. Doing so will help you see what it will take to get it a fair hearing.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

9. Cost and risk.

Gus Van Horn said...

Those two things relate to many of the other points, and probably summarize what the boss is worried about -- and you should show you understand. To motivate him to try the idea, he needs to be able to know how likely he is to benefit and by how much.