Got a Great Idea? Think Again!

Got a Great Idea? Think Again!

Whether right or wrong, eloquent or simple, if your ideas are not phrased in ways that encourage others to listen and learn, they won’t do either. Even Robert Redford, actor, producer, director and founder of the Sundance Institute, doesn’t rely on his fame to achieve his goals. Some years back, he shared this advice in the Harvard Business Review:


“I learned that the corporate powers that be aren’t going to be interested in the fruits of your labors and passion unless you are adept at understanding their agenda and speaking their language. You must always present yourself more conservatively than you privately feel you are. You can’t be forceful, loud, confrontational, or declarative. You have to sell what you have on their terms.”

Redford shared some similar thoughts about "getting them where they live" regarding his communications with members of Congress.

“For example, you say, ‘I know your part of the country,’ and start on common ground that isn’t political. Once you establish that connection, you can say, ‘I understand there are other views, but here’s mine.’ And then you carefully, intelligently, and rationally lay out your arguments, based on a lot of research and absolute control of your information.”

Sounds reasonable. But, it’s a tall order. When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to think others will feel the same. But that isn’t how persuasion works. No idea stands on its own merits. It’s always wise to remember that an idea you’ve created and considered has no history with the person you wish to persuade. It comes to them cold, so to speak. They’ve made no investment.

Let’s say you have a jewel of an idea. The person who can implement it, however, doesn’t have much time to listen. How do you get him or her to listen and to take an interest in promoting your idea? How do you “lay out your arguments” and “control your information” as Redford suggests?

Among the most important steps is figuring out your primary claim. If you’re enamored with an idea, skipping this step is easy. You expect people to see what is so clear to you. And that is a HUGE mistake. 

One way to select a primary claim is to consider the interests, concerns, and emotions of the person you wish to persuade. Conveniently, this approach has the easily remembered acronym of ICE. If this step is ignored, there’s a tendency to provide a multitude of claims. The result is what I call “claim clutter.” You basically dump the reasons to accept your idea onto the other person, resulting in confusion and possibly annoyance. If some of the claims are winners, the losers among them lower their credibility. All the more reason to prioritize your claims, making sure what you say initially is going to grab the other person’s interest. 

Returning to ICE, if concerns are more important at the moment than interests and emotions, then that is the best place to start. I was fortunate years ago to obtain some excellent advice from my boss’ secretary. I was heading into his office under full steam for what would likely be another unproductive encounter. “Have you ever asked him about the pressures he has on him?” the secretary asked. “Maybe if you knew, you’d approach him differently.”

That was among the best pieces of advice I’ve received during my career. I discovered the pressures my boss was experiencing that could have made implementing my idea, no matter its merits, impossible. I went away, reconsidered, redrafted, and presented the idea in a way that addressed his concerns — first. It worked for him and for me.

Ideas are only as good as the claims that support them. Those are only as good as their relevancy to the interests, concerns, and emotions of the people hearing them. When an idea seems wonderful, that’s when you really need to stop and think. Remember this rule: Never love an idea so much that you let it stand on its own. 

Kathleen also blogs here.

Photo: Gajus/Shutterstock

COVID-19 amplified America’s devastating health gap. Can we bridge it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.

Willie Mae Daniels makes melted cheese sandwiches with her granddaughter, Karyah Davis, 6, after being laid off from her job as a food service cashier at the University of Miami on March 17, 2020.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
  • Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
  • To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
Keep reading Show less

Chernobyl fungus could shield astronauts from cosmic radiation

A recent study tested how well the fungi species Cladosporium sphaerospermum blocked cosmic radiation aboard the International Space Station.

C. sphaerospermum

Medmyco / Wikimedia Commons
Surprising Science
  • Radiation is one of the biggest threats to astronauts' safety during long-term missions.
  • C. sphaerospermum is known to thrive in high-radiation environments through a process called radiosynthesis.
  • The results of the study suggest that a thin layer of the fungus could serve as an effective shield against cosmic radiation for astronauts.
Keep reading Show less

Bruce Lee: How to live successfully in a world with no rules

Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."

Bruce Lee: How to live successfully in a world with no rules ...
Videos
  • Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
  • In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
  • One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
Keep reading Show less

3 reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it

How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."

Photo by Filip Mishevski on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus.
Keep reading Show less
Culture & Religion

Top 5 theories on the enigmatic monolith found in Utah desert

A strange object found in Utah desert has prompted worldwide speculation about its origins.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast