Off My Bookshelf III

How do you sell an idea at work?


It’s an interesting and important question for people hell bent on making a difference.

In “What’s The Big Idea” by Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusak, there is some great advice. The best of it comes from Mitzi Wertheim, a social anthropologist by training who works in — of all places — the U.S. Department of Defense as a “change consultant.”

Mitzi appears well qualified to nudge leaders to adopt ideas. Her dad worked at Bell Labs and her mom is a pioneering child psychologist who rates a mention in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for teaching babies how to roller-skate!

Her terrific suggestions:

  • Understand the incentives for change — where the demand lies — and aim your sales toward these.
  • Know who is going to pay for the initiative and why they should pay for it.
  • Put ideas inside what is already in leadership’s focus.
  • Don’t sell a technology.
  • Go on a “book tour,” promoting and “singing the inside jacket” of the idea in person.
  • Don’t hit your head against a brick wall. If one organizational leader isn’t interested in the idea, then find one who is — enroll him or her as your sponsor.
  • Build a base of support, and work with a group of people who say, “This makes sense.”

Makes a helluva lot of sense to me.