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Commerce Matters - Ladue News: Business & Wealth

Commerce Matters

Review of Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down

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Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:00 am

Everybody knows one. Perhaps you are one. They speak up at business meetings and make their opinions heard while serving on your favorite nonprofit board or your company’s corporate strategy committee. They even can be members of your family, where they will delay decisions on where to go for dinner or vacation with their negativity.

    They’re naysayers who, with their glass-half-empty attitude, are adept at derailing any proposal or plan. When the day comes that you need their support, or at the very least, a way to get around their sabotage, you will need a ‘buy in’ to get them to back your good idea. With a quick read of John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead’s latest book, you may get it.

    Buy In:  Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down is a well-written treatise that can help everyone from the mom to the CEO get their plan across successfully.

    The authors’ method breaks down four common attack strategies used by these antagonists and identifies the motives behind them. It gives readers dozens of ways to successfully counter the assaults. Their method keeps opponents at the table, encourages them to speak up and then by addressing their concerns, builds their support for whatever new action is being proposed.

    Buy In begins with the death of a good plan in the fictional town of Centerville. Through a wonderfully written narrative, the authors revisit the issue and save the day using their research. Part two is where we find the meat of their method and the breakdown of typical strategies used to deflate ideas: death by delay, confusion, fear mongering and character assassination. We all know these tactics, but what Buy In helps explain is how they can be hidden in an attack and who is most likely to use them.  For example, the authors note that fear mongering or pushing anxiety buttons in those faced with supporting a project or idea can be accomplished with just a word. ‘Big government,’ ‘legal’ and even ‘change’ are words that can elicit unpleasant feelings. It’s manipulation at its worst but it can be very effective.

    In the second half of Buy In, the authors provide elements that, together, can create a powerful strategy to get support. One of the key take-aways from the book is an exhaustive list of 24 responses to 24 attacks on proposals, ideas or plans. All are based on the most common assaults found through the authors’ research, and they all draw on at least one strategy listed earlier in the book. Approaches such as encouraging your opponents to ‘bring it on,’ as well as refusing to counter attack with data and logic seem counterintuitive, but once you understand the audience(s) that Kotter and Whitehead have identified you’ll understand the reasoning behind their suggested response. 

    Whether it is funding for a new project, proposing a different way of getting the job done or providing the rationale for reallocating resources, everyone could use a little buy in. Just to give you an idea of the problems the book tackles—and to show that they probably resonate with all of us—the top five attacks mentioned are: No. 1, You will never convince enough people; No. 2, We can’t afford this; No. 3, Good idea, but the timing is wrong; No. 4, You’re implying that we’ve been playing; No. 5, We’ve been successful, why change?

 I highly recommend this book as a Thanksgiving gift for the naysayers in all our lives. 

Dr. Benjamin Ola.  Akande is Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University. Follow him on Twitter: @Benjamin_Akande

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