Change takes new ideas. Uncomfortable, audacious, unprecedented new ideas. Unfortunately, sometimes our big new ideas aren’t always welcome.
After a recent speech, a woman raised her hand and said, “I have ideas, but I’m not sure my organization really wants them. What do you do if no one is interested in your new ideas? Do you stay?”
It’s a common question when I speak to groups about making waves. And my answer is always “It depends.”
Sure, there are companies with a limited appetite for change resisting new ideas—even for a better way of doing things. But before you blame your environment for blocking any forward motion, think about whether you might be getting in your own way.
Explore how much is in your control. There are certain go-to behaviors that will work against you in any environment, behaviors that can create obstacles in building interest or momentum around your ideas, especially if you need others to help make it happen. Avoiding these pitfalls will help you accelerate your next great idea.
So, do any of these eight idea-killing habits look familiar?
1. Do you forget the why, or the real impact your idea will have?
If you want others to change, the ultimate impact has to be clear. Change can be hard for all of us, even if we wanted it.
Keep going back to the reason why the change matters—we can help our customers be healthier, we will become a trusted community partner, we can work smarter and faster, etc.
2. Do you miss the connection to business results?
This goes hand in hand with the why. A lot of ideas go straight to the graveyard because of this mistake. Yes, our customers might like the option of new products, but what is it going to take to create them? What is the ultimate business impact?
There needs to be a basic return on investment to be sure your intention has been translated beyond just an idea.
3. Do you give up too easily?
I recently spoke to a leader who told me there was no interest in her recommended change. After talking more, I found out that she had assumed there was minimal interest in her idea based on just one opinion.
Changes rarely happen easily, or it would have been done already. We explored other ways to continue the conversation, new techniques for building interest and how to adapt based on the feedback she had already received.
4. Do you lecture?
If you are the only one talking, there is a good chance you aren’t at maximum effectiveness in creating interest in your idea.
Smart change activators ask questions and listen. They collaborate and involve others, even if they are sure they have the answers. They find ways to work together.
5. Do you skip experimentation?
You can’t just beeline to the finish line, blinders up. You might miss something on the sidelines.
If you are taking on a new change that hasn’t been done before, experiment. Try to see what works and what doesn’t. And adjust. Experimentation is a great way to reveal answers to others through their own observations. They become invested in your idea because they are part of it.
6. Do you take a lack of interest personally?
Remember that new ideas will be rejected and ignored.
Those who create a successful new business or change how their team works together set their ego aside. You’ll get ignored, challenged, questioned—the applause will be in short supply. Keep your eye on the impact you hope to have more than what others think of you.
7. Do you look down on those who don’t get it?
In my research on my book about Wave Makers, I met Lindsay Pender, who introduced new policies and practices in her neonatal nursing group. She started the change based on her previous knowledge from working at a nationally renowned hospital, yet she did it with respect for her current teammates. She said, “They have a different set of experiences than me, and I have to remember that.”
Remember that we all see the world differently. Pender started a significant change with no authority because of her relentless commitment and her respect for those around her.
8. Do you overdo it?
I once worked with a brilliant colleague who was an idea machine. It became clear he had no filter—he didn’t stop to consider what was actually relevant to this growing business.
Successful entrepreneurs and leaders are always thinking and asking, What if? But they are also able to focus and spend energy on the ideas with real impact.
This article was published in January 2015 and has been updated. Photo by @crystalmariesing/Twenty20
Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm she founded in 2004. Previously, she was a senior executive at Accenture and has been recently featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, Money Magazine and Working Mother. Patti is also an instructor for SMU Executive Education and a keynote speaker on “Leading Change.” Her first book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life, hit shelves in May 2014. Visit her website at PattiBJohnson.com.