Newsletter #404 – Saving Good Ideas

It has happened to me and maybe you’ve had the experience as well. You get a great idea or vision for the future, share it with a few people, then watch it fail. Sometimes people like your idea and commit to helping it succeed but then they get busy with other things and leave you on your own. Others are skeptical so they refuse to cooperate or they attack what you view as a realistic goal or a good solution to a problem.

Leadership guru John Kotter writes about this in his new book Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down. Kotter’s conclusions seem pretty basic but they’re easily forgotten. They’re also summarized in a Harvard Business Review interview (October 2010) and in Inc (October 2010).

  • Present your idea in short, clear, simple statements filled with common sense. Kotter’s study of great twentieth century leaders showed that all had “an astonishing talent for communicating in simple and clear ways” that helped people grasp an issue. Almost all leaders could tell great stories that connected on an emotional level.
  • Anticipate and patiently deal with the common forms of opposition. These include “death by delay,” confusion, fear, and sometimes ridicule. Often resistance comes in statements that seem logical. Examples include “No one else does it like this,” “This isn’t the right time,” or “You’ll never get it to work.”
  • Avoid pushing your ideas on to others or trying to overwhelm them with too much information. Shooting back at your critics escalates the conflict and weakens your cause. Try to engage troublemakers. Let them be a part of the conversation. Treat them with respect.
  • Don’t let this get personal. Consider the whole group that you are working with and don’t get sidetracked by the one or two people who are attacking you.
  • Focus on good communication that brings people around to your vision, your strategy, your plan. Remember “getting buy-in for a good idea is a basic human issue; it’s a life skill.”

Please share how you have dealt with resistance when you have had an idea that others ignored or criticized.


  1. The suggestion to engage troublemakers holds such wisdom. It is so counter-intuitive to do so and yet that is the key to finding points of connection and agreement for the good ideas to advance. There is a certain humility that this requires and I am aware of how challenging this can be at times.


  2. I find that if I anticipate a certain level of resistance from the other party (or parties) then it helps me roll with the resistance I will surely get when I discuss concerns, etc. It’s expected that if you are presenting another party with ideas that you will likely get a certain level of resistance. That has helped me, though it is difficult to deal with it after the fact. As you mentioned above, not taking the resistance personally is very helpful, and a goal I always hope to achieve. For me, this is perhaps the hardest.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s