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How to get support for your out-of-the-box ideas

There is a place that good ideas go to die. It’s on the last slide of a presentation. 

This slide is usually titled something like “Misc. Ideas.” It includes a few random thoughts that were thrown in just in case the big ideas preceding it are met with a thumbs down.

The first time leadership sees out-of-the-box ideas should not be tucked away at the end of a presentation. They belong at the beginning. Ideas won’t succeed in reaching the finish line if you don’t take the right steps out of the starting gate. 

It’s a risky business

To think out-of-the-box means to explore creative and unusual ideas. The term is thought to have origins in the Nine Dots Puzzle. It was included in the 1914 Cyclopedia of Puzzles and management consultants later used it as a metaphor for the cliché phrase.

The puzzle was meant to encourage eliminating boundaries. But when we start thinking outside the lines of conventional thinking, there are bound to be risks involved. Consider these pros and cons when bringing ideas that push the envelope to your team:

  • What impact will this idea have on the business’s present and future?
  • How does it stack up versus the competition?
  • What does it mean for your own personal success?

Hope is not a strategy

No matter how unconventional the idea, it still needs to generally fit with an organization’s overall objectives, budget, and audience. 

This is why project briefs are so important. A project brief gives you the chance to outline your strategy, dependencies, and deadlines early on. 

For any new idea, context and background are crucial for building your justification on why it’s worth time and budget spend. Even if your idea doesn’t require capital to get off the ground, it will require some sort of attention and dependencies from across your team. 

Everyone loves a good story, and storytelling can be a beneficial way to anchor a strategy for brand-new ideas. Start with gathering data. Facts and figures can make people’s eyes glaze over, so pull key insights from the data and form them into a story. 

Then take the ‘’ell me like I’m five’ approach. Break down the strategy into very simple terms that are easy to comprehend. You don’t want your stakeholders to get caught up in jargon or complicated wording. 

The early bird is special

To get buy-in for your creative ideas you must play well with others. This means collaborating with stakeholders early on in the process.

If you haven’t yet identified the stakeholders for your project idea, you should get up to speed on what they are looking for and what questions they could possibly ask about your strategy. 

Everyone likes having their opinion heard and is more willing to support an idea if they feel they have a voice in it. Be open to receiving feedback, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Find the right balance between incorporating stakeholders’ opinions and not letting your original idea get blurred in the process.

Timing is everything

Now that you have a strategy formed, it is important to communicate a timeline of when the idea will come to fruition. We live in a world that expects instant results. That Amazon order can be delivered in a few hours. Any movie you want on demand. And every stakeholder wanting to see results generated ASAP. 

Err on the cautious side when creating the timeline for your out-of-the-box idea. You want to be realistic and not overpromise and underdeliver. Break down the project scope, build in milestones for deliverables, and establish deadlines.

Leave a digital paper trail

Keeping detailed documentation from the start will help to mitigate risks and align expectations. Consider using a work hub to keep all your records in one place and encourage ongoing communication. 

A work hub gives you a head start in the race to the finish line for your idea. You’ll have crucial visibility into all your people, work, and tools. You can search across your files and messages to find exactly what you need at that moment. 

The best part is that you’ll now have a proven process to revisit again and again for all your future out-of-the-box ideas.

Emily writes about digital workplace trends and employee experience.
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