The ideas in this post have been inspired by Think Smarter by Michael Kallet. Make sure to check out my Think Smarter by Michael Kallet: Summary too!
Even if you come up with what you believe to be the best idea, unless you are in complete control of what you are doing, you are unlikely to have autonomy over the final decision. It’s more likely that you will require approval by bosses, supervisors or other stakeholders who may be distanced from the problem you are trying to solve. When it comes to getting these people on-board with your ideas, Michael Kallet in his book “Think Smarter” suggests two key methods.
This is a direct method which involves causing someone to adopt or agree with your ideas and conclusions which could be very different from their original thinking. When you are looking to persuade, the other party usually has a firm idea about what they are looking to do. Persuasion involves comparing premises, looking at the importance of each element behind those premises and using that information to move their conclusion closer to yours.
How to use it
If you are looking to change people’s conclusions, you need to first understand the premises used to form their conclusion. If the person feels firm about something, then it’s because they have – or at least they think they have – that they have a strong premise supporting it.
In this case there’s only really one way to change someone else’s mind: That’s to weaken the premise that established the conclusion. Most of the time, people will be less likely to follow-through with ideas they believe will lead to nowhere. If you manage to make them think this, then they will be more likely to be open to new ideas – including yours.
Once you understand the premises formulating their ideas and conclusions you need to critically analyse and evaluate them and find both their positives and negatives. You need to be honest here, if they have a clearly better idea than you don’t waste time trying to persuade them, accept it and move forwards. If you think that your idea is better, I would suggest you take a “steel man” approach instead of putting up a “straw man” and attacking that – Have a Google why this is a better idea
The second method and the one I think is more suitable for most situations is influencing. Influencing others is more subtle than persuasion and involves exposing people to new observations, experiences and facts before they have made any “rock-solid” conclusions.
How to use it
Unlike persuasion where you are having to debate an already established point, influencing involves subtlety bringing somebody else towards your way of thinking. A problem which would be well suited towards trying to influence is getting management to acknowledge team accomplishments more. In this example, you would not go on the offensive and tell management they are doing things wrong, you could instead casually send an article about how engaged employees are more effective or mention several examples in passing of prior examples of where it worked.
By adding applicable facts, observations and experiences to your premise then if management are already in agreement then you are likely to bring this issue to their attention and influence them easily. If they are not in agreement with your points, then they will at least pause to understand why they do not agree which subsequently opens the door to persuasion if necessary.
Now it’s important to note that these suggestions aren’t completely reliable. Even if you have the best idea with the most convincing argument – phenomenon like cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias could cause the complete opposite to what you intended and make people dig even deeper into their conclusions. But it’s also important to note that humility is important here and you need to have the ability to recognize that other ideas may be better than yours sometimes.