Having new ideas, particularly big innovative ones, can be dangerous. Radical thinkers and mavericks have a very long history of being persecuted and sometimes being burnt at the stake. Question: Do you really want to be a martyr for your organisational improvement idea? Wouldn’t it be better to achieve positive change by working quietly behind enemy lines?
There is a (wrongly attributed) quote from John Wesley, “set yourself on fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles to watch you burn” This might over 200 years old, but you can still look at this from the perspective of modern day ideas, both positively and negatively:
- Yes, people love my ideas, they are coming to learn and implement; or
- They hate my ideas and are enjoying the spectacle of me getting toasted.
The point is, that getting an idea accepted can be a huge challenge, possibly as challenging as coming up with the idea in the first place. Obviously this will vary, depending upon who you need to sell the idea to. I’d suggest it is probably easier somewhere like Google or Ricoh in Telford, than in a huge government department. I did touch on this in a post about Idea Antibodies where I suggested a way of gaining acceptance for your innovative idea was to “pretend you’re not a maverick”.
Two of the things that happened following the post that are well worth sharing are:
Good Advice from Mark Braggins: This is good solid advice, I’ve changed nothing here….
“Sometimes it’s not the idea which is rejected, but the way it’s presented, particularly if the proponent appears to challenge the top leadership.
- Deploy different tactics according to the nature of the idea, for example:
if it could save money, approach the lead for that part of the business and talk to them directly, without challenging in public. If convinced, they might volunteer to take it forward.
- If it’s an innovation idea, encourage an ‘innovation workshop’ and contribute to it. Open questioning may help others come up with a similar, or better idea.
- If it’s the idea which is important, allow others to think it was their idea in the first place, and encourage them (a sort of constructive Lago figure?).
- Empathise with the decision-makers, and use language they understand. Avoid technical jargon.
- Ideas people also need sales, communications & marketing skills to spot the obstacles or blockers and adapt accordingly.
- Timing can be very important. Pick the time when decision-makers are most likely to be receptive to ideas.
- If all of that fails, but you feel it’s still a good idea, move or start a new business.”
Good points from Mark that I think just about everyone could agree with. One area where there is some debate, is around when is the right time to move on and leave the organisation? How long do you persevere before you leave or change and become one of the sheep?
Paul Taylor is fairly clear in this presentation that ‘if they don’t get it’, you do actually need to leave. However, what if the organisation you work for is the only one doing what it does, what if it is the National Heath Service? If you really need to stay and be part of the organisation to make the changes Helen Bevan gives some good advice on how to be a “Boat Rocker”; creating the change from within.
How to be Boat Rocker by Helen Bevan
This is a really thought provoking presentation from Helen, Calling All Change Agents. It is 67 slides long, packed with useful information and well worth viewing (several times). Here are three key messages I drew from it:
- Don’t be an outlier. This is taken from a Seth Goding quote” the best way to survive as an outlier is not to be one”, or just pretend not to be a maverick.
- Be Mundane. There are some thought provoking quotes from Debra Meyerson who wrote Tempered Radicals: “Instead of stridently pressing agendas, start a conversation…..yearn for rapid change, but trust in patience,……….their ends are sweeping, but their means are mundane”.
- Build Alliances. Helen’s advice on how to build alliances with people: tell a story, make it personal, be authentic, create a sense of “us” and build a call for urgent action.
These are just a few snippets. The full presentation is well worth spending time absorbing.
Finally, you might be wondering about the picture of Miss Marple? In my mind she is a good example of someone doing the mundane; quietly getting to the bottom of things, gathering the evidence, convincing skeptical people, getting people to accept what she has to say. I wonder what sort of ‘change agent’ she might have been?
So, what’s the PONT?
- Life as a radical ideas person can be very difficult. Depending on the circumstances you can get ‘burnt’.
- Leaving the organisation is always an option.
- If you want or need to stay and make change from within, think about being mundane, patient and doing small things. Work quietly behind the enemy lines.
Picture Source: Miss Marple (Joan Hickson) http://agathachristiereader.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/miss-marple-review/
The original Ideas Antibodies post. https://whatsthepont.com/2012/12/23/idea-antibodies-do-some-organisation-have-an-autonomic-immune-response-that-kills-ideas/
View of some Big Beasts on the Ideas Antibodies post: https://whatsthepont.com/2013/08/06/are-we-programmed-to-innovate-or-stick-with-what-we-know-welcome-to-the-jungle-and-the-big-beasts/