• 10.09.08

Innovating with Meaning: What’s the Big Idea?

Welcome back to the Innovating with Meaning Blog!

Welcome back to the Innovating with Meaning Blog!


Many of our clients have expressed frustration at the lack of commitment to innovative ideas within their organizations.  Many people complain that their managers lack vision or “just don’t get it.”  Although this may be partly true, we must all realize that, ultimately, we have the responsibility to package and sell our ideas in a manner that maximizes the potential for understanding and acceptance.  Here are five tips for selling ideas from our best-selling book, The Seeds of Innovation.

1) Understand and address the needs of your audience. Often we fall in love with our analysis and our ideas and fail to communicate in terms of the buyer’s needs instead of just our own.  Take time to understand your audience.  Not everyone looks for the same thing–some want to see the numbers, others want to understand how the idea fits with the organization’s strategic direction, while others want to know what impact the idea will have on the organization, employees, and other stakeholders.

2) Understand that others do not have the in-depth knowledge you have. Make sure that you share relevant background information on the problem, issue, or challenge, including the extent of its severity and why it needs to be (re)solved now before you present the details of the idea. Our golden rule is never present an idea until you have agreement to the problem.

3) Understand that although people say they want innovation, their definition might only include low risk ideas. Unfortunately, many people do not believe in the potential of a new idea unless someone else, especially someone they admire, has already experienced or accepted it.  Every manager or customer wants to balance or manage the risks associated with a new idea, so show them that your idea is already proven in the marketplace.  Find another organization, either in your industry or in another sector, that has succeeded with a similar idea, or find parts of your idea that have been successful elsewhere.  Showing the buyer that your idea will work serves to lower the perception of risk and helps them switch from “the way we’ve always done it” to your new way.

4) Understand and address your buyer’s need for something “distinctly better.”  In order to encourage your buyer to switch from what they are currently using or doing, you need to show them how your idea is distinctly better.  Why should they bother switching?  What new value are you adding and bringing to them?  Remember, your buyer might think it’s easier to just keep doing what they have always done.

5) Understand that everyone is at a different stage of the idea “buying” process. Some might be ready to say yes immediately, while others need time to think about it, reflect on its implications, or possibly review more information.   Realize that, like a good baseball player, you have to go back up to bat again and again, and you can’t always bat 1000.

Are you “Innovating with Meaning” by understanding and meeting your customers’/buyers’ needs?


Blog Co-Authors:

Dr. Alex Pattakos is the author of Prisoners of Our Thoughts ( and Elaine Dundon is author of The Seeds of Innovation (

About the author

A proud Greek-American (of Cretan heritage), Alex Pattakos Ph.D., has been described as a “Modern-Day Greek Philosopher.” Also nicknamed "Dr. Meaning," he is focused on bringing meaning to work, the workplace, and into everyday life.