Imagine you were the person who first had the idea of a smartphone, an electric vehicle, social media platform, online dating app? These ideas had to start somewhere, be noticed, and pursued.
Now, your idea may not be a radical invention, but what if you have a big idea that may make things easier at work, save the company money, create more engaged team members, help drive more sales or make customers even happier? How do you get these big ideas noticed so they can be brought to life?
While the process may be a little different depending on the size of the business, every idea needs homework, socialisation and pitching to get approval. Take our advice and follow these nine steps!
Be prepared for people to squish your idea
While everyone says they are open to ideas, many new ideas bring change and change is often accompanied by resistance.
Did you know that Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 and was so nervous that digital technology would replace the film-based business, they decided not to pursue the idea? Unfortunately, Kodak's management team were unwilling to change, which saw them miss a significant opportunity.
Knowing people are resistant to change means you should start by critically evaluating your idea so you can answer questions with confidence. Ask yourself; What problem does your idea solve? Is it realistic? What are the benefits of the idea? What and how will it improve when compared with the current situation? How does your idea fit the organisation's mission, vision, current business model? What resources will be needed? Is there an opportunity to test your idea?
Your answers to these questions will determine the direction you take and the people who need to be involved.
Know what benefit your idea delivers
One of the easiest ways to convince others of the value of your idea is to make sure it supports the business needs. For example, if your great idea costs a million dollars but only creates $500 in savings, it is unlikely to get past first base.
Business leaders want to know what benefits your idea will deliver for the organisation. Does it increase revenue, save costs, create a better customer experience, deliver new products to market, make jobs easier or increase safety?
Once you know the benefit your idea will deliver, it is best to try and gather some data to support your case. By providing statistics or evidence, your idea is more likely to be noticed. Further, a compelling case makes it easier for others to talk about your idea with confidence.
Know the process
Depending on the size of your organisation, there may be different approaches to how you get your idea approved to proceed.
Is it just a matter of sharing the idea with your boss and getting the green light? Is it something that would be raised at a team meeting? Do you have to present in an official forum like a leadership meeting or board meeting? Are there expectations around how you present? Do you need to book a spot and send material prior? What do you have to show at these meetings to get the answers you need?
By knowing how ideas get approved in your organisation, you can be planned and prepared.
Think about the politics
What could your idea mean for those around you? Does it make some people look foolish for not thinking about it themselves? Could it mean a whole division is closed? Does it threaten jobs? Does it mean someone else's great idea could get put on the backburner? Could it mean a bunch more work for an already stressed team? Could it undermine someone's agenda?
Unless you think about the political implications of your idea, it could be difficult to get support. Try and think through the possible scenarios, start to float your idea with those who are likely to have the least resistance and most likely to be supporters. Ask lots of questions, actively listen for any objections you may need to overcome.
You could also do your homework to see if anyone else has already thought of your idea. If they have and it was rejected, then knowing why could be insightful. Further, you may be able to work with them as a supporter or collaborator. It can validate that they were right about the need for a solution, and they may be happy to join forces with you to make it happen.
It's a good idea to gather feedback for your idea before you present it for approval. By working with others who will utilise, support, or benefit from your big idea, you will likely gain insights to help you nail it!
People usually enjoy being asked for their help, ideas, or opinions. Through the process of giving feedback, you will start to develop a sense of ownership or 'buy-in,' which can be useful when seeking support. Also, those who will benefit from your idea will be grateful that there's an improvement coming that will make things easier for them.
If your big idea relates to an issue that is already a topic of discussion and a concern to others, it will already have built-in traction. All you need to do is steer the idea in the right direction.
Connect with the right people
Build your team of collaborators and champions. It's easier if you have the support of like-minded people. You'll need a team of champions to help refine your idea and support you throughout the process. They can be from different levels of the organisation, but it's most impactful if they're in a position to influence decision-makers.
They need to believe in your ability to sell and implement your idea, and most of all, they need to believe in you. They may be sticking their neck out to support your plan, so you'll want to make sure your idea is worthy of any risk they may take on your behalf.
You'll need to do a little work to determine who can provide the support you'll need or who will benefit the most from your idea. Start by connecting with people you trust - is your manager a good resource? Identify someone willing to be an official or unofficial mentor who can guide you through the process or give you advice. Join employee groups or volunteer for projects that will expose you to a wider range of perspectives.
PREPARATION AND PITCHING
Have solutions to any objections – cost, resources, and risks
Throughout your research and interviews, common questions can arise. Pre-empting those questions in future can help build your case.
For example, if the timing is likely to be a question, make sure you have a timeline in mind. If the return on investment (ROI) is being asked, make sure you publish the statistics. If your idea builds a competitive advantage, make sure you share visuals of your competitors. Finally, if your idea is likely to cause redundancies, make sure you have a redeployment plan.
By having answers to all the questions and objections you may face, the only question your leaders need to answer is whether to approve your idea to proceed.
Pitch with passion!
At this point, you've done your homework, and you're well-prepared to answer questions and address objections. Preparing your pitch is the final step in getting your idea underway. Consider your audience – who are they? How do they like to consume information? What is important to them? For example, if you are presenting to a finance team, they will likely want to see the numbers. If you are presenting to a creative team, they may want to see more visuals.
Think about your timing - if you have a five-minute spot at a board meeting, your preparation will be different from an hour at your team meeting. If you only have a short window of time, consider sending information that your audience can read prior to give them the background before your presentation.
Remember, pitching is like a job interview which takes preparation. So be confident and explain why you are sharing your big idea – because you know it will be beneficial to the company.
The final word
You've generated the momentum and got the green light, but the process isn't over.
You'll need to keep everyone updated after the presentation to share the outcome, changes, and the plan moving forward. It is also a good idea to identify how you will track the results after implementation to provide results back to your stakeholders if it's an ongoing initiative, follow-up at regularly scheduled or other appropriate intervals to assess the effectiveness of the idea.
Taking the first step in implementing your idea can seem daunting, but it is important to follow through and deliver. You won't be on the journey alone – because to get to this point, you have found widespread support because the business believes in the idea and in your ability to bring it to life! Stay confident and remember that you've found a solution to a problem that will benefit your organisation.
Following these guidelines will help you achieve a successful outcome. Don't give up on getting your big ideas noticed. With confidence and preparation, you can make it a reality!
Critically evaluate your idea
Know what benefit your idea delivers
Get clear on the process to get ideas approved
Think about the politics of who will be positively and negatively affected by your idea
Gather feedback about your idea to help you refine it further
Connect with the right people who can help champion your idea
Develop solutions to any objections – cost, resources and risks
Pitch with passion
Follow up and follow-through