An Idea is a Stumbling Block

the road more travelled

Creative Commons License photo credit: simonsterg

Ideas are dime a dozen. Anyone with imagination, and an ounce of logic, can spin a ton of them. Turning these ideas into reality is always a challenge.

I came across this neat article on MSDN magazine on pushing your ideas to reality. The quote that struck a distinct chord in me was –

It is not the idea that gets people’s attention; it’s your credentials. So if you don’t already have an established track record as an innovator, you will have a harder time getting people to listen to you.

That is exactly what stops many of us from revealing our ideas. Perhaps we were ignored earlier or shot down with disdain or even received a response as to how ridiculous the proposition was.

An Idea is a Fork in the Road

Let us get this straight. Every new idea is a stumbling block. It is like a fork in the road where we expected a straight line. Every fork demands new decisions. New decisions carry a cognitive cost and cause disruption to original cherished goals.

No wonder people do not take ideas seriously. Because it takes effort to recognize the worth of an idea and stand behind it. Note that it is not just a question of what it would cost in resources, namely time and money, but the cognitive cost of evaluating the new possibility and correcting the course that was set much earlier.

Old Goals and Familiar Friends

People grow fond of their goals. Anything that has aged with them tends to have familiarity and they understand it in a lot of detail. Ask anyone who has spent time programming in a particular language for 10years to change their primary language for another. You will find them fighting tooth and nail against that possibility, their mind goes blank. The fluid expertise and productivity will be replaced by an erring and unsure hand.

Structuring, Positioning and Presentation

This is worth bearing in mind the next time you wish to communicate your new idea. Consciously seek to structure your idea, the positioning of it and the presentation of it to reduce the threshold for acceptance as much as possible.

Think like the listener..

..of the idea. Understand their priorities and adapt your message. If you are speaking to senior management you could emphasize how your idea reduces cost, or increases profit margins, or positions a product for market leadership. When speaking to an architect you could emphasize the standard APIs, clean extensibility, open data formats and so on. The MSDN article speaks about this aspect much better than here. Go ahead and read it.

I have merely highlighted the aspect of selling the idea out here. The problem of building enough credibility to get an initial hearing still remains. And that would be the topic of another post!

What do you think? What other impediments exist for idea acceptance?