Moving Others from “Meh…” to “Let’s do that”

How to take an idea from “yours” to “ours”

Have you ever shared an idea and it’s met with:

  • “Meh.”
  • “What are you talking about, Johnny?”
  • “That’s interesting, but we don’t have budget/time/resources.”

It’s discouraging when this happens- but what can you do?

The Problem May Not Be the Idea… It Might Be Your Approach

Sometimes, the problem isn’t your idea- it’s how you’re sharing it. I used to start by sharing my insight. But often, people wouldn’t connect to it. Let me share a story when this happened at work.

Two years ago in my role as a learning designer, I was exploring how Augmented Reality (AR) could be used at work. After some searching, I found a great authoring tool that allowed me to create AR experiences quickly and easily. When I showed my manager, she replied,

“That’s interesting. But how are you going to use it?”

I responded with a lot of enthusiasm and pie in the sky ideas. I talked about the potential and all of the amazing things AR might possibly do. Again, she replied “Huh. Well, I see that you’re excited about it. Why don’t you do a little more research and get back to me?”

This wasn’t a terrible response- yet my enthusiasm didn’t transfer to her. I made up my mind to find a better way to share ideas- to find a better way to get people on board and excited.

Change the Frame

Originally, I was sharing my insight into a challenge. I led with my solution. However, this approach doesn’t work well. I wasn’t effectively setting up the problem first. And because I didn’t do that, I didn’t take people along a path to have their own insight. In other words, there was very little for them to connect to — let alone understand that the meaning and context of what my solution was and why it was important. The frame of sharing my insight needed to change.

Begin from Their Perspective and Their Needs

By changing my perspective from my point of view to their point of view, I’m able to identify what their pain points are. When I begin my story from there, they’re going to relate because it’s from their point of view. If I start with a challenge they’re faced with, I can take my idea from “mine” to “ours”.

For example, in our Instructor Led Trainings on topics like effective communication skills, our participants learn through scenarios. They’ll either role play, watch a video, or read a scenario. Yet these modalities can be limiting. Videos are a great storytelling medium, but they’re not interactive. Role plays often don’t convey the nuances effectively. And text-based stories often aren’t that engaging.

I’ve identified the problem, but I haven’t shared the solution yet. If I did, I’d take away the opportunity for the person I’m speaking with to have an insight. This is critical — if they have an insight, they’ll own the idea with you. If you tell them, then they won’t own it.

Instead of telling them the solution, set the stage with a question like “What if…” Talk about the outcome and what that would mean. But don’t talk about how that might happen.

To pick up on our example, I might say “What if there was a way to experience a scenario in a classroom that’s interactive, conveys emotions, and is engaging? Imagine being caught up in a story “

Note that in this example, I have never once said what my insight and solution are — namely using Augmented Reality. Once I have the person I’m speaking to saying “Yes, that would be great if we could do that,” Then I can share my insight. They will see this as a solution to one of their problems and will be interested in learning more.

An Approach That Works

It’s the framing of an idea that matters. If it is not framed well, it will not be received well. If it’s not received well, it’s not going to gain any traction. Next time you have an idea worth sharing, be mindful of how you frame it.

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Learning in the workplace is transforming from many factors: COVID-19, AI, Big Data, Adaptive technologies, and more. We explore how these intersect with business impacts, innovation, design, pedagogy, and marketing from the perspectives of designers, managers, and executives.

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Johnny Hamilton

Johnny Hamilton

As an award-winning learning innovation thought leader, writer, and learning architect/designer, I’m helping design and build the future of workplace learning.

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