How do you get people to buy into an idea? How can you help them to really grasp the concept, understand what it is and to make suggestions rather than criticisms? One of the best ways is to make it real. Build a prototype.
In his book, The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley of IDEO talks about how Jeff Hawkins of Palm developed the Palm V PDA to replace the rather clumsy Palmpilot. ‘From the outset, Hawkins approached the Palm V as a verb and not a noun. He carried a crude wooden prototype around in his pocket, even pulling it out during meetings to simulate the taking of notes or checking of his calendar. Whether he realised it or not, he was beginning a process of exploration that was similar to what Art Fry, inventor of the Post-it note, engaged in when he handed out the little stickies to secretaries and fellow employees and watched his innovation take on a life of its own.’
That is all very well for a PDA or post-it notes you might think – they are tangible products – but what if you have a service how do you knock up a quick prototype of that? The answer is that you model it with role play. Let people see how the new service might work by having them play the role of the customer, or the consultant, or the service provider, or whoever is appropriate.
People misunderstand words. They find abstract concepts difficult to grasp. The innovation idea that is clear in your mind can be befuddled in theirs. Whenever possible create something they can see, touch and feel. Then they will make suggestions for how it could work better.
People’s Bank has a refreshingly original attitude to new ideas. ‘Don’t debate it, test it’ is one of the key philosophies of this innovative American financial services organisation. Fed up with endlessly debating whether an idea was a winner or a loser and learning little along the way, the bank shifted its paradigm to a ‘test it before you judge it’ approach. The result is an organisation dedicated to making new ideas real as quickly as possible then piloting them in managed circumstances to check the appeal and improve the idea.
The next time you have a great idea don’t just tell people about it; build a model to show them.
Paul Sloane is the author of The Innovative Leader. He writes, speaks and runs workshops on creative thinking and innovation.