Whether testing new product ideas or pitching a change in workflow processes, it’s crucial to have the right voices in the room if you expect to see any positive results. By getting the right people in the boardroom when testing ideas, you will:
- Gain better feedback in the short term;
- Achieve greater buy-in in the medium term;
- Improve their ideas’ chances of successful adoption in the long-run.
The ‘Right’ Voices
Who makes up the ‘right voices’?
- Is it the CEO?
- Is it middle management?
- Is it the janitor?
The answer to all three options can be a resounding “Yes!” depending on the idea being tested. What matters is assembling a group of people who adequately represent all those who will be affected by the proposed idea and those who can contribute to the ideation process.
Diverse Roles and Work Centers
Having representatives of different roles and multiple work centers is important for two reasons:
- All those affected by the idea should have a say.
If a work center will be affected by one of the ideas being tested, that center should have a seat at the roundtable. Key stakeholders are likely to come from a wide range of departments and hold a variety of roles. Some may even come from outside the organization. For instance, if a CTO is proposing a solution that speeds up the electronic data interchange (EDI) process that the company shares with a supplier, then a representative of the supplier should be included in the meeting as well. When all those who are affected by an idea have a say, figurative buy-in (the acceptance of a strategy or idea as worthwhile) improves immensely.
- Different perspectives lead to enhanced brainstorming and better feedback.
A Project Manager holds a very different perspective from an information security manager when it comes to taking in a CTO’s customer product idea pitch, for example. The project manager will listen to the CTO’s idea and wonder, “Will this product benefit our customers?” The information security manager will listen to the same idea pitch and wonder, “Can this product be implemented securely?” Though very different, both perspectives are valid, and both can lead to productive brainstorming and valuable feedback that can be executed on.
Another important factor to consider when deciding who makes up the ‘right’ voices is alignment with the company’s vision, values, and goal. When Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of L.L. Bean, launched the company, he gave life to the following Golden Rule:
"Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings and they will always come back for more."
For L.L. Bean, the ‘right’ voices are those who follow that Golden Rule in everything they do at work. This ensures that ideas that do not adhere to the Golden Rule will not be implemented. Instead, such ideas will either be discarded by the group, or modified so that they meet the criteria set in place by Leon Leonwood Bean nearly 100 years ago.
Better yet is having people who are truly invested in the successful implementation of an idea or in the success of a company involved in the meeting. Of course, employers wish all employees were personally invested in the success of the company. Often times, though, employees just see their job as a way to earn a living and nothing more. In those cases, it’s not because employees are naturally detached or listless. It’s usually because they feel undervalued and are in an environment that limits job satisfaction. When involving all key stakeholders in the idea test meeting, their personal investment in the idea’s success increases greatly as does job satisfaction. So, interestingly, just by bringing someone into the idea testing meeting, they almost automatically meet the “personal investment” criteria, because they suddenly feel more valued. This leads to buy-in (more on that later).
Why it Works
Short Term Benefit: Feedback
The immediate benefit to having the right voices in the room is that the person pitching an idea will receive better feedback. As was discussed above, by bringing in people who hold diverse roles and from all work centers that would be affected by the tested idea, a greater range of valid input emerges. And when those people are all aligned with the organization’s goals and values, the input is more relevant. In this part of the ideation process, ideas may be built-on, enhanced, or discarded as feedback is received.
Medium Term Benefit: Greater Buy-In
When all teams that will be affected by an idea are represented in the idea-testing meeting, buy-in skyrockets. If the idea being tested does get put on the road to being built and tested with a subset of the targeted user – a stage otherwise known as beta – those represented during that meeting are more invested in the success of the idea and ready to buy into the change. People become less averse to change when they feel they had a say in that change.
Long Term Benefit: Successful Launch and Adoption
Because of those diverse but aligned perspectives, and because of that heightened buy-in, a successful launch and adoption is much more likely in the long term. Bad ideas will be discarded and good ones will make the cut. Resistance by affected work centers is reduced, and the greater rates of personal investment into and ownership of an idea’s success leads to greater efforts made by all affected parties to see the idea succeed.
Do you have an idea but need help executing on it? Schedule a call with an Ideation Specialist to hear how you can take your idea from Napkin to Beta.