As you have probably experienced, organizations don’t just adopt new ideas when they are suggested. There is actually a good reason for this, frustrating as it may be. There are always going to be more ideas than any one company (or nonprofit, governmental agency, or whatever) can act on, even filtering out the ones that are obviously ridiculous. If you think your idea deserves to be in the elite few that actually get acted on, you’re going to have to put it through a few exercises to prove its strength.
Is it worth it?
I’ll state was becoming obvious: this is going to take a lot more work than sending out an e-mail, or even getting a meeting with some super busy decision-maker. We’ll go into the detailed steps shortly, but I wanted to take a moment to step back and address the concern that is almost certainly bubbling up in your subconscious. What if all of the efforts that you undertake are for nothing?
It’s a very reasonable concern. Honestly it’s a decent chance that you will find a good reason, or a bad reason that you can’t overcome, that your initiative will not succeed. There is absolutely risk.
You’re a doer
But there is also a reward. If you drive a change that is as successful as you’re planning, you will be doubly in expert – first in the technology that you introduce, and also in driving positive change. Do you think that your coworkers are not also interested in improving some aspect of the system? if you’re someone who can “make things happen”, you will become hugely valuable for that reason alone.
Your skills instantly become more valuable
There are also rewards that are more directly related to the technology that you introduce. Let’s imagine that you’ve been using it yourself wherever you can, and seen some benefits to your workflow. Almost by definition, you’re being forced to constrain its use, and therefore its positive impact, to projects that are small enough that nobody else is deeply involved. Having it as a lingua franca within your organization means that you can apply this powerful tool to the rest of your work as well.
It also makes you the expert at something that matters. If you think about it, expertise has value only in context. Everyone is an expert at a few things, if only their own family’s history and what they ate for lunch. Expertise only has value if the topic of your expertise has value. Which is why you can change the value of your expertise, and therefore your value to the organization, simply by elevating the topic you’ve already built a deep expertise in. <IMAGE surfer riding a wave>
The power of community
Finally, there is a nonlinear benefit of having several people sharing their understanding, building tools, and pushing each other around one topic. This phenomenon is well understood for software projects at large, and one of the reasons that people evangelize about open source projects. Although you will never pay them in gratitude for turning you on to a powerful new library, you may well consider stack overflow question at some point in the next five years. Or maybe you’ll fix a bug, or extend some functionality. Within an organization, there are many highly specific points of integration that need to be worked out. What are the best practices for applying a tool to your unique data? Can you get the visualizations to align with your company’s branding standards? All of these are questions that you can’t ask a conference, so having a local community is required to bring the benefits of scale to your work with this technology.
The great news is that there are proven techniques for understanding what people want, and how you can help them get it. With a little bit of luck, you will be able to abstract the various needs of the people you talk to, along with their own needs, and find a way that the technology you’re interested in and address them in a scalable manner. Only then will everyone’s interests be aligned, and you’ll be able to productively move forward. Over the next few posts, I will lay out the steps to understand the needs of your “users” (i.e., coworkers) and help you achieve everybody’s goals!