greenfieldIt is no longer enough to come up with a great idea for a product or service, you need to influence people and gain their support. The challenge is doing that in the face of forces arrayed against innovation within an established organization, including inertia, resistance to change, fear of failure and financial disincentives. Then there is the obstacle of overcoming people’s inability to envision something different and to accept it. Fortunately, there are some effective ways to gain people’s support for a new idea they either don’t fully comprehend or aren’t convinced will fly. Traditional influencing as explained by Robert Cialdini in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion describes “invoking authority” as a way to persuade others to support new things. Meaning, if you are a recognized expert in the field, your audience will trust that you know what you’re talking about even if they don’t understand it themselves. But, what if you don’t have an established track record? What do you do then? In some cases “flying under the radar” is the best course of action. Present what you’re doing as building upon a current practice, keeping the innovative aspects hidden, until ready to be unveiled. For example, when the first electronic trading system for automated buying and selling of securities launched in 1983, it was introduced as an incremental improvement rather than the transformative innovation it became. Executive Vice President David Mann described the approach as indirect innovation because the users were led to get comfortable over a long period of time. A demonstration of a particular innovation is another good approach because it allows people to experience the benefits of the idea and recognize its value. It wasn’t until Gary Starkweather, inventor of the Xerox 9700, was able to demonstrate a working prototype that investors became involved. The “principle of consistency” described by Robert Cialdini, is also an important method of persuasion. Once we have taken action we experience personal and social pressure to keep doing that specific action, causing us to justify our earlier decision. This principle can be applied to an innovative idea. Propose the idea as a research or pilot project, requiring little support. Once managers have committed to the project it will be difficult for them to back out for fear of losing face. Lastly, take advantage of a rapidly changing industry. This will make it easier to gain support for an innovative idea. It can be effective to argue that since change is inevitable the organization should jump on it. It then comes down to a matter of choice. Support the idea now and exert control over how it evolves or be forced to adapt later, on another organizations’ terms. A good example of this idea is when Colin Foster, head of online and internal communications at the drug company Novartis, was able to overcome resistance towards engaging customers through social media. He demonstrated how Twitter works and was able to show its importance. After that the president of Novartis was able to recognize that social media involvement was inevitable no matter what they did, he in turn gave Foster his full support. Getting people to buy into your ideas is not always easy. But with a little persistence, hard work and following the basic guidelines you too could convince others to take a chance on your idea. Source: Harvard Business Review]]>

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