The biggest innovation barrier: turning a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’

Any entrepreneur or business leader will be well-practiced at facing ‘no’s. Nobody likes to be rejected and no matter how many times you have been told ‘no’, it never gets easier.

Jon Lapham
by Jon Lapham
Innovation barrier

With innovation comes disruptive change and you will inevitably face a myriad of dismissals in pursuit of your ideation strategy.  A deflating ‘no’ is the slamming of a door in your face and can be ceaselessly frustrating. Unfortunately, many people stop at the first ‘no’, interpreting it as an impenetrable barrier in their quest. However, the key to turning a rejection into an acceptance is to understand that the first ‘no’ is not the end of the process. On the contrary, it is just the beginning.

All that is needed is a change of attitude and a little know-how on converting that red light into a green one. It is first important to realise that a ‘no’ does not necessarily mean ‘no’. Often it is simply the lazy answer or a way of buying time and ultimately putting off making a potentially disruptive decision. You need to determine the ‘real’ reasons behind the rejection (not the excuses) and ascertain whether there is wiggle room for renegotiation.

Get feedback

Pitching a new idea is never going to be an easy process and you must prepare for an onslaught of difficult questions. Preempt any objections that the decision-maker may have and prepare accordingly. Think of smart and carefully considered comebacks and you will be able to effectively alleviate any concerns in a highly professional and impressive manner.  Demonstrate that you have really thought about how the idea could work within your organisation and show commitment to your belief.

Gaining different perspectives is also key, as individuals can often be blinded by their own lightbulb moment. Run your idea past trusted colleagues, as they may pick up on issues you had not previously thought of. This is where idea management software can be invaluable, as such a platform facilitates easy interaction with ideas. As a result, only the best ideas will make it to the decision-maker in the first place, removing some of the initial barriers that can be present in an unstructured innovation process.

If you still find yourself facing a rejection when you pitch your idea, it is crucial to get feedback from the decision-maker. Ask for the reasons as to their answer and see if you can provide solutions to their qualms. Alternatively, you can use these reasons to reassess your own approach and continue your pursuit, as we will discuss below.

Reassess what you are offering

There comes a point when you may have to consider that the reason for your ‘no’ isn’t a lack of funding, a lack of openness from the decision-maker or bad timing – it may just be your idea. Return to your proposal and reassess its merits and downfalls. Ask yourself:

  • How will your idea help the business achieve its key objectives?
  • What benefits will the proposal bring to employees?
  • How much will it cost to implement?
  • What value will it bring?
  • What is the timeframe for implementation?
  • How many stakeholders are required to be involved?

If you can answer these questions with clarity and conviction then half the battle is won. Know your idea inside-out, be clear and passionate about the positives and aware of the potential downfalls. Make any necessary tweaks to your proposal to improve your chances; demonstrating that you are prepared to adapt will show your willingness to make your idea work for the business.

Perfect your pitch

When pitching your idea, ensure that you frame it within the context of the key business goals held by the organisation. This will give your idea relevance and clout, enabling you to cut through the clutter. Ultimately, people are exceptionally busy and you need to prove that your idea is worth taking the time to listen to.

This is not just about your idea, it is also about you. Even with the best idea in the world, if you cannot articulate it succinctly then you are unlikely to get the coveted ‘yes’. Presentation skills are key and will only improve with practice. Therefore, treat every rejection as a learning curve and an excuse to try again. With a ground-breaking idea and enviable presentation skills, you can be in the best possible position to push forward your proposal.

The line between commitment and stubbornness

Although ‘never take no for an answer’ is the general theme of this post, this is not an excuse to badger until you get a yes. Rather than show unrelenting pester skills, you need to show commitment to your idea and a willingness to adapt. First, step back and consider why you are being faced with a ‘no’. If you can help mediate these concerns then you will be able to tackle the rejection with a fresh and more persuasive approach that is not obnoxious or irritating.

See the problems from their point of view and offer an understanding response. Link your idea to what they want, rather than what you want, and be sympathetic but constructive towards their concerns. Ultimately, if you react badly to a ‘no’ then it can damage future opportunities and you could be closing other doors. Banish the bad attitude and always keep a smile on your face to show both passion and positivity.

Key Takeaways

  • Gather feedback at every stage of the pitching process so that you can tweak your idea and be prepared for any negative criticism.
  • Consider that your idea may need revisiting and revamping in order to quash the rejections you face.
  • Nail your pitch by preparing thoroughly and presenting with conviction; this is a challenge of persuasion so you need to show the right balance of passion and business acumen.
  • Be persistent but not overbearing in your approach and oppose any rejections with intellect and reason, rather than anger and stubbornness.

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