May 17th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Successful Idea Planting

Your own idea often requires planting. Planting an idea is often the most successful way in an ego-energized organization to see it become successful. Planting and idea doesn’t require direct interaction with the person who you want to adopt the idea. There are several influence points that I’ve found successful over the years. And, rarely, does it require going directly to the eventual owner of the idea. As long as you’re willing to put your own ego aside – which is hard for some to do – then you can have many of your ideas successfully stolen or co-opted. This is a critical tactic for product managers who often lack the formal organization authority to enact certain changes.

Choosing The Plant

You need to figure out what motivates the people you work with. Many people are motivated by recognition or money, while others by intrinsic value they provide to the organization. Now, identifying people who fall into the recognition category are the best plants. These are the people who are hungry for attention — the more public the better. (In larger organizations, look for the people seeking promotion and the spot-light). This type of person acts as the fertilizer to your idea seed. Often, it only takes a simple chat over coffee with the individual to get them planing and setting things into action. Just asking a few simple questions often gets them started on cultivating your idea. Now, the people who are recognition driven must also be in the right organizational position. You want these people to be close or influential within the team you want action to occur. For example, if you want something to occur in engineering, it may be best to plant an idea with the QA team. They may be able to exert enough influence in engineering management to drive the change forward; this is especially as releases come near. Financially and intrinsically motivated people require different levels of resources; sometimes more difficult to come up with (e.g., money, bonuses).

GIving Recognition – Financial or Public

Product management is largely a thankless job. You’re always thanking everyone else on their job well-done. After all, it’s one of the few free bargaining chips that you have to play. However, successful idea co-optation requires that you acknowledge a person publicly for their contribution and great ideas. Even if you’re the one who came up with the idea in the first place. Publicly acknowledging his or her contribution makes them feel good. And, quite frankly, they deserve the credit – they made it become a reality. This helps further your cause and move the company to becoming more successful.

Secondly, a nice lunch or a dinner often goes a long way in wielding influence. Typically, you can accomplish successful idea planting during the course of one of these meals. This type of person may require follow-up meals in order to see it through, however.

Dealing With Blockers

In the event that your plant is being blocked, find another person in another organization to help champion the idea. If more people around the organization like the concept, idea or solution the more likely it will be implemented. This will require more critical mass for supporting the idea. However, remember to continue to give the ‘right’ support to the original individual who will own the idea.
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