by Scott Berkun
Coming up with good ideas is hard enough, but convincing others to do something with them is even harder. In many fields the task of bringing an idea to someone with the power to do something with it is called a pitch: software feature ideas, implementation strategies, movie screenplays, organizational changes, and business plans, are all pitched from one person to another. And although the fields or industries may differ, the basic skill of pitching ideas is largely the same. This essay provides a primer on idea pitches, and although most of my experience is in the tech-sector, I pitch to you that the advice here will be relevant to pitching business plans, yourself (e.g. job interviews), screenplays, or anything else.
THE NATURE OF IDEAS
Ideas demand change. By definition, the application of an idea means that something different will take place in the universe. Even if your idea is undeniably and wonderfully brilliant, it will force someone, somewhere to change how they do something. And since many people do not like change, and fear change, the qualities of your idea that you find so appealing may be precisely what make your idea so difficult for people to accept. Some individuals fear change so much that they structure their lives around avoiding it. (Know anyone exhibiting the curious behavior of being obviously miserable in their job, their city, their relationship, but still refusing to make changes?). So when your great idea comes into contact with a person who does not want change, you and your idea are at a disadvantage. Before you can begin the pitch, you have to make sure you’re talking to someone that’s interested in change, or has a clear need that your idea can satisfy.
Healthy and progressive organizations make change easier than stinky evil organizations do. Smart organizations (or managers) often depend on change. Leaders in these havens for smart people not only encourage positive change to happen, but expect people at all levels of their organization to push for it. It requires more work and maturity for these managers to make this kind of environment successful, but when they pull it off, smart people are systematically encouraged to be smart. Idea pitching happens all the time: in hallways, in the cafeteria, in meetings.
But since most of us don’t work in these kinds of places, the burden of pitching ideas falls heavily on our shoulders.