Just as important as a life-shattering brainstorm session is having the wherewithal to put those ideas into action. And in a workplace with bureaucracy and—let’s be honest—the occasional nitwit boss, it’s easy to feel as though your fabulous idea will never transition from legal pad to incubation.
So, let’s talk about how to do it, even when your superiors are slow to change and quick to reject any idea that challenges the status quo. Two words: Preparation and presentation.
Let’s say your online athletic gear company is making some changes to the website, and you’ve got a great suggestion: Replace the flashy colors and outdated fonts on the website for more sophisticated shades and fonts, thereby improving the company’s overall brand image. It’s only a few small changes, but you think they could have a big visual impact.
Here’s your game plan.
1. Think Like an Academic
Remember all those research papers you wrote back in college? And remember what made for a good one? A sound thesis and a well-organized use of outside sources to support it. It was a pesky process, but the result was a well-supported argument. Even the most interesting personal essay doesn’t have the same legitimacy as one with sources.
Same goes for the workplace. To show your boss your idea is a good one, do a little research. Key words: a little. If you shove a list of facts down your boss lady’s throat, her eyes will glaze over and your chances of executing your idea will grow much slimmer. Therefore, search for just a few pieces of the most poignant data you can.
In this case, for example, you might look for stats showing that consumers respond better to saturated colors, as long as they aren’t abrasive to the eye. (If such stats exist, of course.) Or research that supports your argument that a steady mix of serif and sans-serif fonts are more pleasing to the viewer than globs of chunky text.
Start Googling. One good way to cut through the crappy results: Search “New York Times” and “typography.” Find a relevant article, then trace its sources.
2. Survey the Competition
Your idea is more likely to be well-received if you can present it in terms of the competition. What are they doing? How do you stack up in comparison? Did they make color and font changes to their website aesthetics a couple of years ago, or is this a way you could stand out from the competition and be ahead of the game?
Know what your few key rivals are up to, and you can be sure your boss’ ears will at least perk up. Plus, it’s always good to know what’s going on in your industry below the radar, at the micro-strategic level—that alone should impress people.
3. Relate it to Money
Want to make absolutely certain your idea is at least heard? Involve dollar signs and reference them often. Show how your suggestions will add value to the company and translate into more dollar signs, and—I promise—the execs will at least give your idea a longer look. Then, if they like it, they’ll feel better about investing time or money in executing it. And if your grand idea is a way to actually save company money, you’re almost guaranteed an audience for at least a few minutes.
Sometimes, the financial aspect won’t be so obvious. In this case, changing the fonts and colors won’t have the same clear-cut results as, say, boosting your company’s investment in advertising. But if you could prove that a more streamlined aesthetic extends the amount of time a consumer spends shopping online by X%, your chances of getting support are exponentially greater.
Follow these three steps, and you’ll be one step closer to making your kick-ass idea a reality. And if it’s a project you’d like to stay involved with, speak up now. Don’t wait until your idea is delegated to someone else or—worse—stolen. Next up, you’ve got to execute your idea, and, well, that’s another story.
Caroline McMillan is a Charlotte, N.C. native and a reporter at The Charlotte Observer, where she writes about small business and entrepreneurship. She graduated from the journalism school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and spent her last two years of college as the editor in chief of Rival Magazine, a joint publication between Duke University and UNC. She loves Tar Heel basketball, french-press coffee, making to-do lists and buying more books than her shelves can hold.More from this Author