Sunday, April 24, 2011

Great Innovators are often successful because - Influence Drivers

Data...power and now influence.  All logical places to go and you will see the nuance of their differences becomes slight, but at the end of the day if you can recognize a pattern you will be in good shape.  Obviously if you are a great seller you can get people to yes.  But being able to influence has other components besides being able to sell.  Below are some of the ways you can begin to dimensionalize influence when selling innovation beyond the direct assault approach.  That approach while powerful is often rife is long term pain.  Pain that arises because of the bodies you leave behind during the process of getting what you want. If you think about using influence you better think about when to do it and if it is worth it.  Too many times because we CAN influence to get our way, we don't THINK about its consequences.  This post if about why an innovator is successful and how to think about influence.  It does not discuss how one's bias for action can often lead them to use influence incorrectly and to their disadvantage by not thinking through it first.  

They have successfully built a supportive coalition:  Very  simple way to succeed, build a group of people who support what you want to do and usually it will happen.  This is always one of the safest ways to influence because it is about creating a collaborative wave that carries the day over time.  In fact, influencing through a supportive coalition can often be a catalytic process.  Why?  Because those who aren't interested in being the champion of change are often very lemming like in their behavior.  If push the right buttons and get the right people you will often find yourself having more people than you would think because those YOU influenced will bring who THEY can influence to the party.  And when this happens across levels rather than down, your ability to get somewhere can move so fast you might not be ready for what is expected.  Collaboration is the name of the game and supportive coalitions are the core of driving change.

They have understood others' interests:  As stated in an earlier post, negotiation is about interests and if you understand someone interests it is often much easier to bring them where you want them than if you simply think about what you want to do.  This is very important because most innovators can be very focused on getting what they want that they will ignore the needs of others.  We can be a single minded group and breaking out of that and focusing on what someone else wants can be an eye opening experience.  I find myself often thinking I know what someone else is thinking and while I am often right, when I am wrong I wanna kick myself.  Staying focused on others' interests means always trying to understand what everyone wants, thinking through how you can bring your interests in line with theirs and then build the biggest coalition you can to make it move.

They have encountered the desperate:  This is my favorite innovation principle of all when it comes to success.  Have you ever come across someone in trouble?  They have put themselves out there and they are worried they are going to fail.  Are they a political pariah?  Well, while the conventional often run, this represents great opportunity for an innovator.  Many times our ideas are about bigger things than simply a new product or service.  Many times our ideas around flexible...meaning they could fit in many places within the organization.  A person in trouble will be very easy to influence.  They will want to try anything to get out of their situation and often make a very loyal innovation partner.  And if you deliver for them when others were afraid to support them you make an ally too.  Some of my greatest ideas have come from helping the desperate.  Because you can build a coalition with someone who it is easy to understand their survive their current situation.  Sometimes they could also be someone so eager to do something that you are their shining light who can speed it up.  There are many types of desperate I guess and frankly the term should be considered loosely when working on the political grid, but always be on the lookout for the desperate because they can be your best innovation friend now and in the future.

They have access to decision makers:  If you are good you can get to decision makers and get them to move where you want them to.  This is an art, but a great one to cultivate.  For example, early in my career I used to doesn't matter when you get into work, but best action can occur after 530 when the day starts to die down.  Why?  Because many decision makers stay late.  They will notice your "commitment". And they are tired and are often chatty and willing to open their door for you at the end of the day.  And while this is certainly more a big company idea, it is nonetheless all about access.  Getting access to the right people is huge when trying to drive change.  I have always believed, however, you desire to get closer to those who can help make things happen must be genuine and must include loyalty.  That is why you get access for working with decision makers and by managing expectations and delivering.  This is what gives you access...not simply because you can talk to them will you have credibility.  Don't believe this is a phone tactic to be successful.  This is all about being genuine, honest and forthright with those who make decisions.  Use your access wisely or it will be short lived.

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