How to get Buy-in for Good Ideas

Posted: 1/21/2011 8:36:22 PM
Have a great idea and want to make sure it isn't shot down? These 5 strategies will help.
We recently watched a good interview from the Harvard Business School lecture series with Professor John Kotter, who discussed some of the ideas in his book "Buy In: saving your good idea from getting shot down". We thought we would share with you his simple, clear advice which will be of great use to small business owners and start-ups. It might be especially helpful for those renegade-type entrepreneurs who may have trouble getting people to believe that their ideas have value.

Below are Kotter's five ways of getting buy-in and our reflections on those

Draw the Gunfire!

Have a big meeting about your idea, invite everyone in. Because people are so busy, perhaps a lot of the reason they don't buy in to your idea is because it is just a blip on their radar. By holding a big meeting, you will "draw the gunfire". People will attack your idea. That's good because people notice gunfire-"once you've got their attention, then you have the possibility of winning over their minds and hearts". We interpreted this strategy as similar to the philosophy that "there's no such thing as bad publicity".

Keep it Simple!

"Avoid Vietnam." Don't debate the details. If you spend 15 minutes debating the details of your idea, people will tune out and stop thinking about the idea. There are simple responses to most types of attacks on an idea. Unfortunately, Professor Kotter didn't get into those responses in the interview, so perhaps we will need to peruse the book for those.

Be the Statesman

Treat people with respect, in your meeting and "on paper". Don't beat them into submission, especially if you are feeling angry or defensive-"mistake". Be the statesman. The bullies will try to beat up on your idea, let them. Let them come off looking bad, which helps you get buy-in from others. Be respectful of nay-sayers, you never know who may simply be a sceptic. If someone is simply playing devil's advocate, it wouldn't make much sense to debase them and lose their support for that reason. Treating everyone with respect draws the audience toward you.

Keep a Broad View of the Audience

Pay attention to the masses. If there is one person who is attacking your idea more viciously than others, do not focus all of your attention refuting that person's arguments. You can just imagine how this would give validity to their stance. You are there to convince everyone, and you will likely not change that one detractor's mind anyhow. Give everyone attention.

Be Well Prepared

Think carefully about your plan, how it would be used, and what some of the possible arguments against it are. Focusing on the details of your plan reduces anxiety. If you have thought of things down to the nitty-gritty, people will be less easily able to poke holes in your ideas, and you will come off looking more respectable and intelligent! And last but not least-and this last piece of advice might be really crucial to some of the more intelligent entrepreneurs out there-don't put people to sleep by talking for too long. If you do this, you're "dead" as Kotter puts it.