No matter what kind of childhood we have, all of us are influenced in some way by those around us—parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends—people we trust to guide us and keep us safe. We’re taught to be the best at what we do, be sensitive to others, and make ethical decisions that shape our future.
Want to change the world? Great! There’s no better place to do this than in your firm or company where you spend the bulk of your time. A society without the ability to effect change wouldn’t be very pleasant and certainly wouldn’t be democratic. Many organizations, in fact, rely on their employees’ opinions to help make important workplace decisions.
That great idea you had in the shower this morning may just turn into a bottom-line boon to your firm or company. If your great idea is to add more healthy snacks to the vending machine, that sounds great. However, if your idea requires the organization’s leadership to make decisions involving time, money and people, then you’ll want to concentrate on determining the viability and learn how to communicate your idea.
First, create a fact-based solution. We all know there’s nothing worse than someone who only presents issues, or even problems, without also providing solutions on how to solve the matter. While you might feel your idea surely isn’t a problem, you’ll no doubt command much more respect from your peers and managers if you give some thought to more than just the idea itself.
Let’s say, for example, you know about a software application you feel would be helpful to import tax data into your clients’ IRS forms. So far, the firm has resisted adopting this kind of technology because the current program isn’t able to handle it, most solutions simply won’t integrate with the current program, or it may just be a matter of training and making the investment itself.
What you need to do is take this idea from “concept” to “reality.” Start by making a list of every possible consideration related to adopting and implementing the solution. Write these down and make a “pro and con” list, just like all of us still do when we have to make some of the more tough, professional or personal decisions in our lives.
You’ll want to spend enough time on research to ensure you’ve addressed all points accurately and even fairly. “Accurately” in the sense that you’re knowledgeable and up to speed on how the program affects the firm’s workflow; “fairly” with the thinking that there may be an IT partner who is vehemently opposed to something like this. Who knows? There may be hundreds of possible scenarios. The point is to go through the discovery phase by tackling the idea from every possible angle.
Second, present your idea. This is the time when you not only have to stand up for your beliefs; you must get before the firm’s or company’s decision makers. If that person is the management committee or even just the managing partner, then you absolutely need to get your supervisor’s buy-in and even this person’s encouragement.
Be cautious. If your supervisor shuts down your idea, you might be left with a great report and presentation, but no one to present it to—and you can’t, in most cases, go over this person’s head because you’ll create unnecessary animosity. To keep this from happening, ask for your supervisor’s buy-in up front, even while you’re doing your research. You’ll know right away whether the concept is welcome … or if it’s not at all possible due to various circumstances.
This is also the time for confidence. Hey, you had the creative spark to think of the idea, so now you must be confident and comfortable with your presentation. Don’t worry about being nervous; all of us get stage fright in one way or another—even the most trained, seasoned CEOs have sweaty palms during keynote presentations. Take a breath, relax, and come across as believable.
Third, be a part of the solution. If your idea is approved, you’ve now come full circle to being a part of the solution and helping with implementation. Although this may involve many steps and quite a lot of time, it’s your idea so you’ll definitely want to see it through.
Again, be cautious. There may be a few roadblocks along the way. In the tax data import example, think about the staff who will be impacted by learning something new or different. Embracing a healthy snack in the machine is one thing; learning a new software program and making it work for your clients or customers is another. Remain optimistic and reassure the naysayers that this has proven successful; offer examples of increases in productivity and workflow. Make it about them so they understand the impact and the reward, not just about you and your great idea.
You can champion your idea from a blue-sky concept and turn it into a real game-changer, but you have to be wise and logical in your approach. Not only will you gain respect, you will improve your research skills, writing, and even the ability to make persuasively great presentations.