Fast Company on how to introduce new ideas: Completely roll over

Getting People To Listen To New Ideas

I really like Fast Company and read it a lot, although moreso the digital side and less so the paper side (if I read the print product, I’m probably on a plane somewhere). Sometimes, however, they massively whiff with the stuff they let through the cracks. A good example would be this “hiring with intention” article.

Today, there’s another one: “4 Strategies For Introducing New Ideas At Work.” (Headline with a number, naitch.)

Before we dive into how stupid and awful this is, let’s pause for a second and consider the implications here. Since about 1973, give or take, there’s a prevailing mentality — at least in American business — that the rich are getting richer, taking more decision-making authority, and just kicking stuff down the chain as opposed to actually listening to any ideas. You could probably find millions of people who feel this way. As a result, movements like “employee engagement” sprung up; thing is, no one really understands it and where the bottom-line value lies on it. The people that do understand it can’t convey it properly, because the bottom-line isn’t there yet. For decades we’ve thought “Oh, if we lose someone — even if they’re good — well, we’ll hire and we’ll make do.” And it mostly works. So who cares how tethered a person is to their org, or how happy they are? So long as they’re hitting deliverables, right?

So in this world where the top dogs dominate everything, this concept of “getting an idea through” — because in reality, good ideas can come from anywhere — is pretty important. So you take a respected business mag like Fast Company and they go front-page digital with an article about how to get ideas introduced and recognized, and you think … whoa, this might be interesting or insightful. No. The opposite.

Here were the aforementioned four strategies:

  • Align with the decision-makers
  • Be flexible
  • Be visual
  • Don’t get too excited

LOL. Here’s what that means:

  • Come at the bosses with what they already want. Don’t try new things.
  • Be prepared to change everything so that it’s really now their idea.
  • Have a couple of pictures, because they will probably be checking their e-mails during the preso anyway.
  • Don’t get too excited. Probably you’ll be kicked back to rank-and-file even if the idea makes them bank.

That’s hell.

Here’s a better take:

Look, the big dogs will always be the big dogs, and most of your ideas won’t go anywhere. The sad reality of the modern first-world workplace is that we talk about ideas and collaboration and communication mattering to us, but none of that stuff even remotely matters. It’s about (a) making money and (b) relationships around making money. If you can master those two things, you’ll be fine. If you honestly buy into the notion of “Well, we listen to ideas, and that’s how we promote,” well… I wouldn’t answer any e-mails from Nigerian princes anytime soon.

Ted Bauer