Bring on the Skeptics
When you are developing groundbreaking ideas, you will always run across skeptics. There’s an old joke that goes, “There are two kinds of people in the world, ones that divide the world into two kinds of people, and ones that don’t.” But seriously, in the world of invention it often seems there really are two kinds of people, those who are intrigued by new ideas and those who love to play devil’s advocate. Entrepreneurs need to have the ability to leap over the obstacles in their path. It helps to have the kind of personality that can hear “no” a hundred times and still know that “yes” is just around the corner. We get re-energized when we talk with people who spark with a bolt of creativity when presented with something new. Often you can tell within a few minutes of meeting with someone whether they are open to new ideas and new opportunities or whether they immediately look for ways to distance themselves from anything different. It can be tempting to want to surround yourself only with those who share your vision but before you write off those risk-adverse colleagues, take the opportunity to use their skepticism to your advantage. Here are a few suggestions:
- Listen carefully to objections and force yourself to ask two or three probing questions before you try to defend or explain your own position.
- Ask them to tell you more about their concerns or ask if they see any blind spots that you haven’t addressed yet.
- Try to figure out if they had a personal experience that leads them to doubt your idea or if they have seen companies with similar problems or failures. Dig into the details.
- Restate their objections back to them in a neutral tone, for instance, “It sounds like you are concerned there are too many similar products on the market.” or “It sounds like you’re worried our price point will not be competitive.”
- Tell them you really need their “tough love” and ask them to point out weaknesses in your pitch or product description.
The key is to listen without reacting. Don’t let yourself go into problem solving mode. Don’t try to win them over. Capture their input objectively. Don’t disregard it, use it to strengthen your plans. The other trick is to know when to move on. There is no reason to beat a dead horse. Some people just won’t be won over. Spend your energy finding the people who will – they are out there, just waiting for the next big thing, and your idea could be it.