Want Your Team to Implement Your Ideas? Try This Mind Trick

Last Updated Jul 8, 2011 9:10 AM EDT

As a junior member of your team, you may find it hard to get your ideas implemented. Not only do you have to fight against negative views of your inexperience to get your suggestions heard, but even if everyone is open to ideas from junior staff, it may be hard to convince co-workers to take the plunge and actually act on them.

So is there nothing you can do but bide your time until you rise in the ranks? Absolutely not, according to applied psychology blog What Makes Them Click by author Susan Weinschenk. As part of an interesting series of posts on how to get your ideas implemented, she recently offered a powerful practical tip on how to frame your ideas to make it more likely you'll see them in action. The essence of the idea: replace 'I' with 'You,' 'They,' 'Customers' or 'Users.'

To illustrate the point, Weinschenk asks the reader to imagine a situation where "you are going to suggest that the information architecture be changed so that there are fewer choices to make from the home page." What's the first way you'd probably think of phrasing this idea? Probably something along these lines:

I think that there are too many items on the top level menu. I'd like to see us pare that down to a smaller number.
But that's the wrong way to go, according to Weinschenk. Instead, she suggests using a pitch that's focused on the team or the end user, offering these model sentences as examples:
You want to be sure that people don't have too many choices to make at the top level. If you change the information architecture to have few items, then it will be easier for customers to make a decision quickly about where to go at the site.

Users will get confused if there are too many choices at the top level of the menu.

Research shows that if you offer too many choices, then people won't choose anything. Sheena Iyengar and Barry Schwartz are two researchers who have some interesting studies on this. You want to limit the number of choices at the top level.

This way, "if team members disagree they aren't disagreeing with you. They are going against users, research, and customers" and will need to muster stronger evidence to argue against you, writes Weinschenk. Her insight might be simple but it's also powerful, and may work in other situations as well. Other experts, for instance, have recommended those trying to promote themselves also shy away from using I and shift the focus to the end results of their actions instead.

Could a tiny shift in how you present your ideas have a big impact on how many of them actually get implemented?

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user roland, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.