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People Judge You First, Then Your Idea

Your boss doesn’t need life complicating. He’s under pressure. She’s busy. He’s
got deadlines. She has objectives. Your manager has a family. A schedule. Your
boss has a boss. Head honchos who are stressed, busy, hit by deadlines, and
under pressure to meet objectives. You want them to say ‘yes’ to your idea. But,
it’s always going to be easier to say ‘no’.

Only about 1% of proposed ideas are ever accepted. Strangers make most of the
decisions about whether to develop your insight. People who don’t know you can
reject your genius concept. They don’t know the way you think. They don’t care
what your idea has cost you in blood, sweat and tears.

They will judge you first. It’s a mistake to assume otherwise. There are several
reasons people judge the messenger before the message. Innovative proposals
are uncertain. They are unproven and trying them in the market is the only way of
testing them out. Often, the component parts of a breakthrough idea use
knowledge at the cutting edge. The person assessing your idea doesn’t have the
necessary expertise to judge the future because no one does. If they can trust the
messenger, they can trust the message.

 Workable Ideas – Potential backers want to know whether you can come up
with workable ideas. Take the time to think through the obvious weaknesses in
your concept and get tough-but-fair reviewers to look at the idea before you
pitch. Just as important, they want to know that you are the kind of person
that they think can come up with workable ideas – and implement them. Is
this idea actionable? What can we do with this idea? Can this person make this
idea work? Your potential supporter may not even understand the details of
the idea but if they believe in your ability to deliver the promised benefits then
they can proceed. The more radical the idea is the more backers will want the
idea proposer to know how to deliver.

 Desirable Stereotypes – People make assumptions about “good ideas” people.

Are you a professional who combines creativity with production knowhow?
Are you quirky and unpolished preferring creativity to reality? Or do you
appear young, inexperienced and naïve? Each of these stereotypes can
convince people to back an idea - they all bring something that is necessary to
successful innovation and they all encourage the backer to get involved. A
professional needs cash and a partner. Quirky people need steady teams. The
naïve need experience.

 Undesirable Stereotypes – People also make assumptions about “bad ideas”

people. Are you a lazy dreamer who hasn’t grasped the detail or the vision of
what the idea needs? Are you a pushover who abandons an idea rather than
defend it? Are you a robot who memorizes the proposal and cannot answer
questions without PowerPoint guidance? Are you an obnoxious,
argumentative user-car salesperson who just keeps trying to sell the idea
repeatedly without listening or adapting? Are you the charity case who pleads
and begs but wants the money that comes from a job not support for a
fantastic new idea? Each of these stereotypes gives backers easy ways to say
no to taking a risk on a new idea.

 Likeable Collaboration – Everyone likes to be part of an idea’s development. If

you want someone to support your idea, share the idea. You need to involve
the audience in the creative process.

You can use your knowledge about the idea and the potential backer to get on
the same level. Bring the audience into the concept with a mixture of
preparation and improvisation, one question and answer at a time. You can
present an idea as a story in which the backer is able to imagine the difference
your idea will make and start to naturally picture involvement. You can admit a
lack of experience and put forward ideas in a way that invites reconsideration
of long held assumptions. Each approach should be sincere, it’s about figuring
out how you fit into the world of idea pitchers: If you have expertise, don’t try
to bully people into accepting your concept. If you don’t have any experience,
don’t try to pretend that you do, just share your insight and solution – let them
fill in the gaps.

 Passion gets you a long way. Not all the way perhaps but many idea backers
have initially supported an idea because of a passionate pitch. If you don’t
believe in your idea then how do you expect us to believe in your idea? If you
don’t have passion for your idea then how do we know you will stick with it
until it is successful? If you don’t feel passionate then ask yourself why. Is your
idea good enough? Are you the right person to deliver your ideaI.

The way you present your pitch is important but the way you present yourself is
vital. Your audience will judge you first, then your idea.

Elsbach, KD, 2003, How to Pitch a Brilliant Idea, Harvard Business Review,
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Elsvbach, KD, Kramer, RM, 2003, “Assessing Creativity In Hollywood Pitch

Meetings: Evidence For a Dual-Process Model of Creativity”, Academy of
Management Journal; Jun2003, Vol. 46 Issue 3, p283-301

Getz, I, Robinson, AG, 2003, “Innovate or Die: Is that a Fact?” Creativity and
Innovation Management, Volume 12, Issue 3, Page 130-136, Sep 2003

McKee, R, 2003, Storytelling That Moves People, Harvard Business Review,

Jun2003, Vol. 81 Issue 6, p51-55, 5p, 1c;

Sternberg, RJ, 2002, Cognitive Psychology, Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc, 3Rev Ed