When you start something really new in a corporation a couple of things happen:
- You find out who the Open Thinkers are
- You find out who the Haters are
In case you’re wondering, it’s a lot easier to find the folks in group two. In fact in most cases they’ll be happy to find you – ironically these are typically well-respected folks in the organization. The really good ones are often referred to as great “critical thinkers.” Either way, it all adds up to a person who wants to tell you why what you want to do can’t be or shouldn’t be done. I’ve been through this a few times and here’s what I’ve learned about how to handle this phenomenon:
- Focus on your promoters. Do a couple of people “get” the idea you’re trying to sell? Focus on making them ridiculously successful. If you can stay a bit under the radar while doing so, so much the better. While you’re working through your V1, keep a running powerpoint deck (or whatever the preferred method of communication at your business) to build a case study that tells the story of what your “big idea” is and how it’s changing the way you do business. Have an end-goal in mind of where you’d like to take your idea in a few years and some idea of what resources it will take to get there.
- Ignore your detractors: Take careful note of the criticisms of your new idea. Do they have a point? Learn what you can from the nay-sayers and ignore the rest. Figure out who the toxic people in your organization and stay away from them – just focus on making your case study kick ass. If your idea is well thought-through, they’ll come around eventually as late adopters. (Guy Kawasaki refers to these folks as “the bozos.”)
- Identify your champions: Make sure you have at least 2 vice-president level supporters. Here's why I say two and not just one: people at this level leave on a semi-regular basis, so in my experience it’s a good idea to work on getting support from a second person in case your chosen champion leaves. From time to time, make sure you keep your champions in the loop on your progress – don’t allow them to be surprised by someone else’s update on your “baby.”