Learn three tips to presenting your technology solution so it’s accepted and implemented.
How often has this happened to you: You’re faced with a problem – a web design, a code defect, a stubborn business process – and after a lot of work, you find a solution.
Not just any solution, a great solution. It goes beyond solving the problem. It’s brilliant if you don’t mind admitting.
You proudly share your brilliant solution and it falls flat. “That’s not the way we do things around here,” you’re told. “That will never work.” Or my personal favorite: “They’d never let us do things that way.”
I received that last response years ago while working with a major logistics company. I proposed a series of process and control improvements to their procurement process. But I made the wrong argument, so the changes weren’t implemented.
Consider Personal Preferences
What happened? Why was my solution turned down?
When we think of business processes or information technology, we like to think we live in a world of pragmatism. That there’s a right answer to every problem if we look hard enough. And that it’s not just a right answer, but a perfect, indisputable answer, certified by the universe itself.
Personal preferences are not entered into the equation, right? Wrong.
There are, in fact, many acceptable answers to every problem. Furthermore, personal preferences are very much a part of choosing the right answer. As ideal as solutions might be, they won’t be accepted if those preferences aren’t addressed.
The demigod of industrial design in the 20th century, Raymond Loewy, came to understand that. While design solutions can make great leaps and bounds, their audiences (think buyers) tend to move at a more deliberate pace. Loewy framed the optimal solution with the acronym MAYA: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.
The beginning principle of MAYA is that people prefer the familiar to a radical departure, particularly when they’re making multimillion-dollar decisions.
“Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” encapsulates that mentality perfectly.
How to Present Your Solution
So, when you’re trying to get people to move towards a radical solution, you can only lead them so far. They have to see where they started from.
In short, they can’t go beyond sight of land. Too far from land and they start to think they’ll go off the edge of the earth and get anxious.
Below are three ways to effectively present a solution – without sending your audience in search of an oxygen mask:
#1 – Couch New Idea in Terms of the Familiar –
For example, many start-ups today are framed as “Uber for <fill in your business problem here>”.
Movies and television shows are often pitched to reflect a successful project. For example, “Star Trek” was “Wagon Train” in space, and “Speed” was “Die Hard” on a bus.
Rather than forcing the audience to ponder how an entire action movie can take place within a city bus, the latter example promises that the movie is not groundbreaking at all, but instead fits within a formula. It’s much easier to swallow that way.
#2 – Connect to Similar Solutions in Other Industries –
Industries are often perceived as having unique characteristics (such as market forces, supply chain or design cycles) that defy analogies and the transfer of ideas from another industry.
Still, radical solutions can make the jump if you can draw the parallels correctly. Think about the companies now selling mattresses through the web. You would have thought that mattresses were practically immune from internet competition. You can’t easily ship (or return) a mattress, and nobody can tell you quantitatively how firm they like a mattress. They have to lie to down on them to tell you what they like.
Every other product sold through the web had the same challenges at one time. Even books had this problem (we said that people liked to flip through books before buying them, or they liked to browse).
But companies examined these challenges and found a way to work through them. Web mattress start-ups decided they could learn from other industries – that the problems they faced weren’t any bigger for them.
#3 – Take the Audience on a Journey –
Don’t jump to the end: Take your audience with you and check in with them regularly.
Apply your solution into stages, building familiarity one step at a time. In fact, this ends up looking a great deal like Agile and its core use to develop an untried solution.
Instead of asking for the commitment and faith to take on a major program, do things iteratively. Ask questions like: “We tried this – how does this work for you? We could do this next, how do you think this would look?”
Path to Acceptance
Remember that the path to acceptance of a solution starts with what your audience is familiar with.
They may not be happy with what they’re used to, but they know how to handle it. Take time to show them that your solution isn’t so scary and “they” might let you do things this way, after all!