Mental Echo

Posts Tagged 'Communication'

Stealing Ideas

Created: April 29, 2008

I am just finishing up reading Made To Stick (book review coming soon) and came across an anecdote in the final chapter that got me thinking. The anecdote describes a manager at the World Bank that was asked to look into knowledge management. In a bank, where the chief concern is usually money, knowledge management seems like a bum job. Undeterred, the manager did some research and came back to senior management with his ideas. He didn't just push his ideas on the committee with statistics or a boring power point deck, he expressed his ideas in a manner (read the book to find out how) that resonated with the listeners. As soon as his presentation was done, two members of the committee began peppering him with ideas for how he should get the knowledge management program moving forward. They had so fully embraced his ideas that they assumed ownership of them and were moving forward as if it had been their project all along.

Suddenly, the knowledge management program was no longer the black sheep for the World Bank; it was a top priority. The manager was immediately upset, because the committee had all of the sudden stolen his idea. Shortly thereafter, the manager realized that this was the best possible outcome of the meeting. The moral here is that there is no better way to get buy in on an idea than to have your audience embrace it so tightly that they begin to believe that it was their own idea.

Everyone has probably been on both sides of a situation like this and it usually happens in brainstorming sessions. This is what brainstorming sessions are about after all. You gather together and let the ideas flow and eventually start building off the ideas until you get to your solution(s). By the end of it, no one knows where the ideas started and it doesn't matter that much since everyone took part in the process. The anecdote in the book applies this concept to a very different situation. A single person presents an idea to a group in such a way as to gain a level of group buy in that borders on a perceived group ownership of the idea.

This concept is awesomely powerful -- in a Utopian world. You convey your idea and everyone is on board. What could be better? The problem is that we don't live in a Utopian world. Whether you are in the corporate world or in a start-up, ownership of the idea is very important. Having good ideas leads to bonuses and promotions (corporate world) and financing (start-up). If you lose ownership of an idea, what else do you lose?

So what is the solution? Should you be just good enough at "selling" your idea so that people accept it as their own but still recognize you as the originator of said idea? It seems kind of silly to hold back at all when you are trying to convince others to build a certain product or make an important change. What if you hold back too much?

I don't really have a solution, but I know that going forward, I will follow the strategies in Made to Stick as much as possible. I know I want my audience to have complete buy in. I want them to feel the "a ha" moment and feel like the idea is theirs. I feel like I will be able to get so much more done in life if I can convince others around me of my ideas. You just have to hope at the end of the day that you are recognized for your ideas. Maybe just having your ideas embraced at that level will be recognition enough.

Tags: Books, Communication, Marketing
Categories: Books

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