When I develop strategies with divisional and departmental teams, one of the most common mistakes teams make is to discount radical options too early. Believing that the potential solution will be unacceptable to their bosses, and won’t fit in with the corporate agenda, the team kill the idea at birth.
The beliefs that lead to the early dismissal of a radical idea may be based on some reality. Equally, however, they may simply be team members’ incorrect perceptions. These beliefs are damaging, however, if they stop a great idea from seeing the light of day.
I recently worked with a commercial team who were considering options for growth. One of the options was a more radical change to the pricing strategy, which appeared to move away from the corporate pricing policy. Some members of the team suggested that they should discount it as too risky, but when the Commercial Manager tested this option with the Chief Commercial Officer, she found that her ideas mirrored some of the latest thinking in the boardroom. As a result, she is now piloting her strategy with a view to roll out later this year.
If you feel that you have a radical, but exciting alternative solution, here are the steps to take:
- Discuss the idea early with your senior stakeholders to gain their feedback, thoughts and challenges.
- Position the idea within a range of options. In the end, it may be a combination of these original solutions that creates the best way forward.
- Clarify the upsides of the idea, but set out its benefits and risks objectively so that a balanced discussion is generated.
- Articulate the ways in which you can reduce the downside risks of the proposal. For example, my client is testing the new pricing strategy in a specific business area before deciding on a wider rollout.
- Remember that your job is to come up with the best possible solution for the business. Others will seek to make compromises along the way soon enough; you don’t need to do that for them.
Proposing radical ideas requires courage as much as it requires analytical insight. Going against the organisation’s generally accepted ways of working – whether real or imagined – may not be the easiest way forward. But if your idea can benefit your organisation, it is the right thing to do.