7 Ways to See an Idea Through
We’ve all been there: you have a good — though still imperfect — idea that could put your company on the cutting edge, but it gets killed by your co-workers faster than a political prisoner on Game of Thrones. A couple of hours later, you find yourself on a barstool rambling on about how “no one understands social!” while downing $3 happy hour vodka tonics.
No one wants to be this person. And no boss wants to employ this person. But in our ADD-afflicted digital era — where there’s way more ideation than execution — many creatives find themselves devastated by bosses who discard their ideas.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you’re a big-time exec, a junior creative, or part of a small startup team, these seven nuggets of advice from tech industry stars may help you get an idea off the ground.
1. Make it a team venture. Though you may have an amazing idea from the get-go, your workplace might be more likely to accept it if everyone feels like they have ownership over the idea. Marissa Mayer — the much-ballyhooed new CEO of Yahoo! and former VP of search products at Google — developed 9 Principles of Innovation. The best one? “Ideas come from everywhere.” In a Fast Company article detailing her principles, Mayer explained that Google has “this great internal list where people post new ideas and everyone can go on and see them. It’s like a voting pool where you can say how good or bad you think an idea is. Those comments lead to new ideas.”
2. Trust your gut. Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger visited their alma mater, Stanford, to give advice on entrepreneurship. “Trusting your gut, I think, is a theme of this talk,” Mike said. “Developing your gut is the work you can invest in beforehand.” While no book can predict the questions you’ll have to answer in a conference call with investors, nor the roadblocks you’ll face as your idea moves forward, trusting your instincts is a resource you can rely on.
3. Listen between the lines. Matthew Swyers, founder of The Trademark Company, advises that when you understand what your boss or colleagues ultimately want, you can better tailor your idea to pass muster. “What is motivating the why? If you can listen between the lines to understand that which truly motivates the other party, you will gain a decided advantage in the negotiation of the deal,” Swyers says in “Secrets of a Master Negotiator.”
4. Ignore the haters, but stay flexible. Entrepreneur.com asked Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley what advice he would give to “tech entrepreneurs who want to build something big.” His answer was twofold. First, don’t listen to the people who tell you your idea will never work. “For a long time, we had these ideas for things we wanted to build, and we listened to people tell us that the ideas were silly or stupid or weren’t going to work. You can’t listen to them, and you really have to build this stuff on your own.”
Second, Crowley stressed the importance of continual ideation, and not getting too attached to one idea: “You have to be totally fine with throwing things away and realizing you might have to throw away five before you find one good thing.”
5. Push your idea. At the Montreal International Startup Festival, entrepreneur Cindy Gallop shared tips for how to get your ideas heard. “Self-promotion is not a dirty word,” she explained. Though sometimes it’s scary to relentlessly promote your ideas, determination and self-confidence can go a long way toward getting others on your side.
6. Set distinct goals. Make a calendar that breaks down the steps of your idea so that you can actually execute it. It’s important that these steps are specific and achievable. When you convey the smaller processes to your company’s leadership, they’ll see your idea as something they can help to implement. Better yet, tell them how they can be most useful from the get-go. When people have a clear idea of how they’ll be involved, they’re more likely to get on board.
7. Connect and collaborate with your users. Chloe Sladden, the director of media partnerships at Twitter, advises creators to “prototype early and often. Get even the seeds of ideas in front of users.” See if your audience connects with your idea and your product, then use that information to ideate and innovate. Having the backing of key users is also a great way to convince your boss, co-workers, or co-founders that an idea is worth exploring.