Innovation: Why People Are Like Leaky Balloons!
When Business Objects acquired Crystal Decisions I was lucky enough to work with Luke Evans (now CTO of Indicee). Luke and I were kindred spirits focussed on disruptive technology and getting people to adopt new ideas. We used to talk a lot about how to be effective innovators. It was no mean feat inside a 4,000+ person organization.
Luke used to use a metaphor of a helium balloon to describe how you could infuse people with an idea. When you finish communicating an idea people become full of your enthusiasm. The begin to float!
Innovators need to communicate their ideas. Innovators need to be really good judges of what information people really understand and receive from each communication.
- It could be an email, a whitepaper or a slidedeck
- You could be face to face with and individual or talking to a crowd
- It could be a video or a conference call
Each communication can inflate or deflate the enthusiasm of your audience. Done right, you add to their knowledge, their belief in your idea. They inflate like a balloon. Then the meeting or communication ends. The problem with people and balloons is they leak!
Their mental balloon for your idea deflates slowly over time. Sometimes it’s just the passage of time. Sometimes you get displaced by one or more bright shiny objects. You are not the only person vying for their attention.
Think about your enthusiasm for other people’s ideas. Unless you see them constantly your enthusiasm often wanes. Nothing personal. Just life! So don’t forget this. The solution is simple.
Pick a few balloon holders not dozens. Invest in them. Build a community for your idea. Focus. Go back and build on your last visit. Solidify your gains. Reiterate your points. Fill their balloon even fuller. Assume they have forgotten much of what you told them. Retell your story. Embellish the details. Infuse more enthusiasm.
That bits easy, the magic comes in connecting your fans. Share your stories. Connect your balloon holders. When fans talk to each other they can help each other refill each other’s balloon. They can reinforce and embellish your idea. Your community can build and maintain its own momentum.
Don’t take it personally. Mental leaking is a human coping mechanism to information overload.
It’s part of how we judge things. We subliminally assess how we still feel about ideas.
I love the balloon metaphor. How about you?
Have you noticed how people forget stuff that seemed so material to them when you first imparted your story?
Don’t be phased. Expect it. Be happy about what they recall, not saddened by what they forget. As an innovator you simply need to know this. Keep repeating. Keep reinforcing and refining your story.
You will get bored of your story long before your customers and prospects. In my case with Luke we’d focus as much internally as externally. There is no exclusivity to the sparsity of attention and we all leak!
Image Credit: saphirai Via Flickr & Creative Commons