Selling Ideas

-David Herbst & Nancy Beck.

We offer these reflections after an advanced workshop in St. Petersburg :

As a result of the discussions we had there, we understand better the way in which ideas must be sold. Since any established organisation is, by nature, more adaptive orientated than its most innovative (and therefore more prolific) idea generators, the more the innovative “idea seller” is likely to offer ideas that buck the system. Yet, in order for ideas to be sold successfully, one must sell the structure or context in which that idea will live, i.e., make the idea come alive inside a context appropriate for and understandable to the audience.

Organisationally savvy innovators have learned that they need structure around their ideas. This structure gives innovators better understanding of their concepts – enabling them to make more logical and organised presentations to the organisation. Adaptors are more willing to listen to the novel idea if it comes fully clothed in fashions that are perceived as being appropriate for the event.

Editor’s Note (2003): Since this tactical note was published no one has offered their experience of how the more insightful adaptors try selling ideas to an innovatively inclined leadership. Is the most common approach to sell adaptive ideas as innovative or to try to sell the notion that adaptive style plays as critical a role as an innovative one – the problem how to get the right balance for the problem being faced at this moment! On this problem, we need more views based on hard experience.

David Herbst & Nancy Beck, 1993