This article in the New Yorker recently revealed that the iconic Got Milk? campaign actually failed to reverse declining milk consumption and has now been all but scrapped. It’s a reminder to all of us who create and promote ideas that awareness (to the point of ubiquity), even for an idea that’s good for us and makes sense, is no guarantee of success.
So how should we frame ideas to encourage take-up? Inspired by another New Yorker article on why innovations do or do not spread (hat-tip Alex for bringing it to my attention), here’s nine suggestions I hope you find useful in getting others to embrace and act on your thinking:
1. Provide a compelling motive to accept a new idea by making the problem it answers urgent and real. Present the problem in ways that people can actually see or experience rather than imagine or process. Give them a reason for change.
2. Connect the answer (idea) with the problem. Seeing really is believing. Show people what happens for the better, not just how the idea works.
3. Work with people’s inclinations not against them. Understand why they believe and behave the way they do. Leverage as much of that as you can by giving people enough of what they recognise for them to speculate on the remainder.
4. Make take-up easy. Solve their problem, not yours. Create a new and better normality that people can start to live with.
5. Prep the dip. “The dip” is Seth Godin’s term for the hard yards that precede success. If your idea is going to hit bricks before it reaches bouquets, tell people what to expect, and why.
6. Identify and quantify the rewards. Make sure the emotion of what the new idea will deliver is greater than the emotion people derive from the way things are now. Make the answer warrant the effort of take-up.
7. Remember, people follow the lead of others. People, not technology, training or even logic, encourage the diffusion of ideas. As the New Yorker observes, “effort is a social process”. Therefore if you want an idea to spread, form conversations around it. Give people things to talk about with others who like and trust them.
8. Find common ground first between you as the idea creator and your audience as the idea receipients. People accept ideas more readily from people they like; people they come to believe are a lot like them.
9. Share ownership. Give people ways not just to welcome the idea but then to work with you to help develop it. That way it becomes their idea as well. Now make their championing of the idea a way for them to enhance their social or communal standing or, at the very least, make sure that doing so doesn’t risk them looking or feeling foolish.