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What to do when someone steals your idea

Kim KingKim King
Kimberly King, vice president of worldwide partners and channels at Progress SoftwareJustin Knight Photography 2012

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you get buy in for a new idea? is written by Kimberly King, vice president of global channels and partners at Progress Software.

Change is inevitable, but ideas that prompt change usually need buy in from others across an organization. This can be hard to achieve given today’s highly matrixed organizations. That’s why you need a solid strategy to bring others along with you. If you help them see the wisdom in your vision, you’ll have the allies you need to succeed.

Time Your Collaboration
First, get buy in from someone in leadership. This sponsor will help you organize key stakeholders into a core team that will scope the new idea and identify which players are needed for internal and external approvals. Of course, timing is everything when sharing ideas. If you announce too early without the necessary backup data and messaging, you’ll get immediate pushback. Alternatively, if you have it all tied up in a bow prior to engaging the core team, you’ll likely get pushback from those wanting to put their own fingerprint on the project. Strike a balance and you’ll be golden.

Beware of Hidden Agendas
Some people will naturally reject an idea that is not their own — or claim the idea was theirs from six months ago. Understand where the egos are hidden in your organization. Those with hidden agendas will require special attention. Stay a step ahead by providing critics with a safe place to share feedback. Acknowledge changes, and be willing to morph plans based on unexpected roadblocks. Most of all, be sure to take your own ego out of the process.

See also: Here’s how to make sure your next ideas meeting isn’t a total fail

Listen to the Experts
Here’s an example: In a previous position, I was asked to head up a critically important, strategic acquisition. It would change the direction of the company and put us on a completely new trajectory. Out of the gate, I heard the mantra of “how we always do things.” Few were accepting of my new ideas. I then got some great advice from a colleague who recommended I read Five Frogs on a Log by Mark L. Fieldman and Michael F. Spratt. This was the springboard I needed to move aggressively forward, but likewise get everyone to come along with me. I recognized that we needed a new approach to how we looked at integration and growth. It can’t just be about the numbers. You must always consider the people, the opportunity and the goal of getting everyone bought into the idea of change.

Have a Plan
As with most new ideas, you always need to plan for the best, but expect the worst (remember the ego!). Getting communication right is the most important piece of the plan. You need time to let the organization assimilate to the idea and to the impending change. Use frequent checkpoints with all stakeholders to continually evolve the plan to support the most recent data and direction. Let the specialists/experts at your company do what they do best. Support them through the process and resolve conflict early. Don’t let things fester.

While constructive conflict and disagreements are natural and healthy, you’ll find your team will be successful in the end by following this collaborative approach. So what happened with my company acquisition? The same people who complained in the beginning told me it was the best acquisition integration they had ever seen.

While I’d never suggest that company change and securing idea buy in will be easy, this approach should make it easier for you. In these times of constant evolution, a change agent is a valuable business asset.

Read all responses to the MPW Insider question: How do you get buy in for a new idea?

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