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Thursday, July 7, 2011

John P. Kotter: Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down

How to Stop Good Ideas from Getting Shot Down | HBR Video IdeaCast on
(video, 10 min, although I found only the audio part informative)
In this short podcast, John P. Kotter, Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, discusses the main points of his book on business communication Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down.

The main angles from which good ideas get shot down are:
  • Confusion - getting the conversation so convoluted that people cannot quite follow it and then they start wondering that maybe the idea is not quite right.
  • Fear-mongering - punching people's anxiety buttons.
  • Death by delay - delaying the implementation until the window of opportunity is gone.
  • Ridicule or character assassination - making you look not competent or not having done your homework.
The best prevention strategy has several parts to it:
  • Bring in the lions - invite the opponents into the email exchange or to the meeting, rather than trying to exclude them. Gunfire draws attention. It increases the likelihood that people who are busy working with their smart phones or laptops will look up and start listening, giving you a better chance of winning their hearts and minds.
  • Keep it simple - it is so easy to be pulled into a kind of a Vietnam, and the next thing you know is that you are debating details, and 15 minutes have gone by, and everybody has tuned out.
  • Treat everyone with respect - it makes you look more statesmanlike, and makes the other, more aggressive, opponent look more like a bully.
  • Watch the overall audience - you are trying to get support from many people, but not necessarily from the opponents. Do not get obsessed by those whose mind you will never change. It is so easy to get distracted by the baseball that they are throwing at you.
  • Be prepared - do your homework, and think in advance who may say what. For example, what questions might some reasonable skeptics ask? Preparation also reduces your anxiety level. A frequent mistake of people is preparing to present their ideas, rather than thinking about where the opponents may come through. Some ideas or meetings may require a lot of preparation.
You can find more useful info on John Kotter's blog. Note that I did not find references to research on this topic by Kotter, although psychology of persuasion is a fairly large field. Thus, the ideas above are probably based on experience rather than on research studies.

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