5 Ways to Get Buy in from your Team

2-Dec 2016

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Whether you’ve got a stellar idea or you’re trying to implement something new at work, you’ll have to get buy in from your team if you want to see results. Well, if your idea is awesome, getting everyone onboard will be easy - right? Wrong - but, you probably already knew that. As a busy professional looking to be even more successful, you’ve probably already had your fair share of these types of scenarios (and we feel for you).

After digging through some research, we found five essential factors that influence whether someone adopts or rejects new ideas. Everett Rodgers, a sociology professor at Ohio State University published “Diffusion of Innovation” in 1962 where he coined the now famous term “early adopter” and he found five factors to why innovations spread: Relative advantage, Compatibility, Complexity, Trialability, and Observability.

Lucky for us, these same principles can be applied when trying to get buy in from your team for your (awesome) new ideas at work.

1. Relative advantage

Why your idea or product is better than what’s already in place.

If you can clearly show and explain why your proposal has a dramatic and positive advantage over the current option, then it’ll stand a much better chance of getting implemented. The hard part though, is figuring out how you’re going to lay out that vision. It’s not just a matter of stating what should change and why, but you’ll need to go deeper into the benefits it’ll bring to your team’s everyday workflows and processes. Show or explain how it’ll make their lives easier, how it’ll positively impact their careers, and what success with it will look like. As always, when you’re dealing with human beings, don’t rely on logic alone - appeal to people’s emotions and aspirations.

2. Compatibility

How your idea or product complements your team’s way of working or doing things.

Human beings are naturally risk-averse, so especially if your idea consists of implementing something no one on your team is familiar with, you’ll want to take some time to describe how your proposal is a logical extension or a natural next step to what they’re already doing. In order to do that, you’ll have to spend some time thinking about how you’ll pitch them on getting from the current situation to the advantageous future you’re promising. Essentially, the less compatible your new idea is with existing systems, the harder adoption will be, and the more time you’ll have to put into deciding how you’ll sell your idea or product.

3. Complexity (or Simplicity):

How complex (or simple) your proposal is to explain.

Your idea or product might be great in theory, but if it’s complex in nature and you can’t explain it in simple terms, you can kiss seeing it to fruition goodbye. Like David Burkus says in his Harvard Business Review article Get Buy-In for Your Crazy Idea, “if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. In the same way, if you have to spend significant time explaining how your idea will work, it’s never going to win people over.” You need to figure out a way to pitch your idea in simple terms. Like David also mentions, that’s largely why so many new businesses have decided to pitch their idea as “the Uber for..,” or “Like Uber, but for…” - even though it’s cliche, it right away makes sense and is relatable in people’s minds, so do this to get your idea or product proposal across successfully.

4. Trialability

What needs to happen in order for your team to try out what you’re suggesting.

This one’s especially important if you’re trying to implement a new product or process. It’s how much effort will be needed to try out the product or experiment with the new process. If it’s going to take a lot of work for people to dip their toes in, you’re far less likely to quell their reservations. It’s really important for your team to be able to test your idea out and to be able to see the advantage of your proposal when they do. Not only that, this needs to be easily observed by others, because you want the buy-in for it to spread. That means those “early adopters” have to be able to experience clear results to share with others, but more on that in the next point.

5. Observability

When or where your team will be able to observe others benefiting from your proposal.

Following the trialability factor, people need to be able to observe how the idea or product is benefiting those who try it. With relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, and trialability all holding strong, your team needs to be able to see it in action to buy into it. Without sounding cliche, “seeing is believing”. That might mean John seeing how quickly Sarah is now able to get through her work thanks to a new software platform, or Alana noticing how much more time Travis now has to spend on client-facing work after implementing a new process. Again, when they can observe emotions, like feelings of satisfaction, they’ll pull your idea or product further along into acceptance than logical arguments alone.

When these five factors are met, ideas are far more likely to be widely adopted. They’re also great for judging if a new product or process is ready to be presented to your team or company. Regardless of how much enthusiasm you have for your idea, you need to weigh it against these five factors. That’ll gauge if your excitement for your proposal will translate to success and if your idea deserves a real shot.

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