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To Win Support for Your Great Idea, Make It Imperfect

Others will want to help you.
COLLABORATORS Baba Shiv, Scott Berkun
To sell your big idea, make an imperfect pitch
illustration by Todd Detwiler

We’ve all been there: A light bulb goes on and, in a swirl of caffeine, an idea is born.

A great idea.

But how do you persuade your colleagues to give it a chance? According to Stanford University’s Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing who studies how emotions affect decisions, you must do two things:

1. “Figure out if the person you’re trying to pitch to is really open to new ideas,” he writes in “The Art of the Imperfect Pitch” on the Stanford Business School website. “If not, find a champion in the upper managerial levels who you think might be. Float your idea to that person first, and then have him or her present it to the target manager.”

2. “Don’t provide your champion with a polished pitch. Let it be a little bit rough around the edges. This may seem counterintuitive, but having something that leaves room for expansion inspires people to get involved in your vision. Having the ‘perfect’ solution, on the other hand, tends to inspire critique.”

It’s possible that, as great as your idea might be, it can be made that much better by tapping someone else’s brain, even just a little.

#imperfectpitch

THE PLUS

Formulating an idea is a talent; selling an idea is a skill.

For a comprehensive overview of how to master the skill, we strongly recommend Scott Berkun’s essay “How to Pitch an Idea.”

Berkun, who’s authored three best-selling books, offers tips such as: “You’re probably not the first person to pitch something of the scope you’re pitching, so go find out what other people did, and what kind of success they had.”

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