Why Great Ideas Often Fail

There are a few scenarios that show up frequently in our workshops. And one of the most common is a request from a participant to help them sell their idea/initiative/recommendation. Nearly every day, we work with people who have looked at the problem, done the research, and believe they have the correct solution or idea to move the company forward… and yet can’t get heard. The struggle, for most people, is not the idea. For most, the struggle is how to sell the idea so that it gets adopted by their peers. 

This concept came up recently in a social media post from @AdamMGrant, one of my favorite thinkers. Grant wrote “Many promising ideas fail to see the light of day not because they’re wrong, but because their champions fail to persuade the right audience. Having a good idea is less than half the battle. Change is fueled by people with the will and skill to communicate their visions.”

We could not agree more. Most of the time, if your idea never got momentum and support, it’s not because you had a bad idea. It was because you didn’t communicate it well enough. Our experience matches up perfectly with Grant’s assertion. We see it every day.

So, how do we make sure this doesn’t happen to us? The most common mistake, by far, is that the idea is communicated from the wrong perspective. Most failed presentation pitches get hung up on the wrong things. Most failed presentation pitches fail because they get stuck in the muck of the research that was done, and don’t focus nearly enough on the outcome. What most decision-makers are listening for, and what will capture the attention of most audiences, is how the idea/solution/recommendation will change their reality. And in order to do this well, we need to understand what matters most to that audience. Find their pain point, figure out how to solve that pain point, and now you have the chance to capture their attention.

So, the formula is pretty simple:

  1. Identify a legitimate problem that needs solving.
  2. Identify a realistic solution to that problem.
  3. Identify the correct audience to make your pitch to.
  4. Communicate your solution from the perspective of how it will reduce the pain that the audience is feeling. 

When we can consistently apply this formula, we will consistently get heard. And if you are not getting heard, it is because one or more of the following things is true:

  1. The problem you identified is not as big a deal as you think.
  2. The solution you came up with is unrealistic in some way.
  3. You are speaking to the wrong audience.
  4. Your pitch is flawed.

Follow this formula, avoid these mistakes, and you are well on your way.

Good luck!

(Author’s Note: If you don’t currently follow @AdamMGrant on Twitter or Instagram, I highly recommend. He is the author of the bestselling book Think Again.)

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.