FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
- How to get officers to ramp up traffic enforcement without using quotas – hidden as performance evaluations, or otherwise.
- How to get the chief’s operational priorities justified to the Mayor with citizen support.
- A schedule design change that will reduce overtime and garner officer buy-in.
- How to streamline domestic violence calls without compromising safety or enforcement.
- Reducing turnover by recruiting the right officers.
- Creating a coaching culture and processes.
But you’ve seen great ideas shot down by the chief (deputy chief, captain, lieutenant or sergeant) before. It seems crazy to you. Why not at least try something that has the potential to accomplish so much good? You may be right. The thumbs down may be irrational. That doesn’t mean you can’t change it to a thumbs up. Let’s see how.
The Boss’ Perspective
In his book The Myths of Innovation, best-selling author and public speaker Scott Berkun observes that innovative ideas are rarely rejected on their merits. That’s because people react to change based on their emotion, not their intellect. So, innovative ideas are most often rejected because of how they make people feel.
You need to understand the perspective of the “yay” or “nay” power if you want to succeed. Perspective is reality—to that person. We all think our perspective is the rational and right one.
Berkun’s book addresses some of the most common nay-saying perspectives. Figure out which of these lenses the person you will be presenting your idea to sees the world through:
- Ego/envy: I can’t accept this because I didn’t think of it.
- Pride & Politics: This makes me look bad.
- Fear: I’m afraid of change.
- Priority: I have 10 innovative proposals but resources for one.
- Sloth: I’m lazy, bored, and don’t want to think or do more work.
- Security: This has some potential but why should I risk my neck on it?
- Consistency: This violates my deeply held principles (no matter how absurd, outdated, or ridiculous they are).
Too many innovators bog down in whether these are right or wrong, smart or stupid, rational or irrational. Do you want to be a moral philosopher or psychologist or do you want to get your ideas implemented? These feelings are the person’s reality. You need to persuade the feelings to change or recast the innovation so the feeling become positive. Dostoyevsky said, “Taking a new step … is what people fear most.”
When presenting a new idea to your boss, you’re going to have to assuage that fear, whatever its root.
The company creativityland inc. specializes in creative thinking and problem solving, innovation and personality styles. They also provide a “how-to” outline for selling your new idea. This outline can be used to script your idea.
What is it? What does it look like? How is it used? In what situations is it used?
Who is this idea for? Who is the primary target? Is there a secondary target?
What belief, problem, and/or need does this idea address?
What are the end-user benefits? In what ways do people derive value from it?
Why is this one idea the one that can deliver those benefits?
Start small and down play the risk. People often balk at change because its outcome is uncertain and they fear the risk. Reduce that. For example, if your idea is a schedule design change that will reduce overtime and garner officer buy-in, ask for approval to try it with only a few willing officers. Call this a “trial” or “test” which the boss can call off at any time.
Volunteer yourself. Or your shift, squad, or division to try out your new idea. If it’s a good idea, put yourself where your mouth is. This is another way to cast implementing your idea as “a trial.”
Invite, don’t sell. When my husband and I were buying a house, I complimented the real estate agent for not subjecting us to any “hard sell” tactics. He responded, “I don’t sell the house; the house sells the house. I just show it.”
Avoid the hard sell when talking to your boss. Instead, invite the boss to look at your idea with language like: "It may be helpful if we...." or "Perhaps we could...." or "I was wondering if...."
Take it one step at a time. You want to make it as painless and easy as possible for the boss to get onboard. If you’ve gotten the go ahead for a trial or test, gather the results, present them, and ask for the next step – such as an additional person to help with the idea or a modest amount of money for materials.
As you work through subsequent steps, be open to changes yourself. Your idea might evolve differently than you first envisioned it. It may end up an even better idea.
Timing and context. If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know how important timing and context is. If I want to launch an idea with my husband, I don’t do it when he’s engrossed in a book, watching a big UFC match or the Masters tournament, is hungry, tired or hassled. I wait until he’s well fed, relaxed and feeling lucky to have me in his life. You may never get to this last thing with your boss but you know what I mean.
Pitching an idea that may require any additional resources without an equal or greater cost offset when your boss is stressing out over possible layoffs, a confrontation with the union over unfunded pensions, or a budget battle with the city council, isn’t good timing.
If you’re turned down. Don’t whine or give up. Ask the boss what it would take to address his or her concerns or reservations. Then prepare for the next pitch.
Anticipate Opposition, Address It
Scott Berkun cites some common nays to new ideas you should be prepared for:
- We’ve tried that already.
- We’ve never done that before.
- We don’t do it that way here.
- It’s not in our budget.
- We don’t have time.
- The higher ups will never go for it.
- People won’t like it.
“Yes, we’ve tried it already, and …. [your solution].”
“Yes, we’ve never done it before and … [your solution].”
Look on the bright side. Howard Aiken, a famous inventor said, “Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats ...”
Here’s to effective ramming.