Douglas Ferguson and Karen Holst are standing against a red-brick wall and smiling into the camera.
Douglas Ferguson and Karen Holst. Image: Start Within

How can you escalate your ideas at work?

23 Jun 2020

Having co-authored a book on pushing ideas forward at work, Karen Holst and Douglas Ferguson share their advice.

Have you ever had a great idea at work? Did you face challenges in bringing it to your boss? It’s a common occurrence, according to entrepreneurs Karen Holst and Douglas Ferguson. The two recently co-wrote a book on the subject, Start Within: How to sell your idea, overcome roadblocks and love your job.

I spoke to both of them to learn more about how we can push our ideas through at work, from first steps to reacting to negative feedback.

What, in your opinion, is the first step people should take once they have an idea they want to share?

Holst: Our ideas are rooted in our own patterns, beliefs and backgrounds. While this can help us make sense of the world, it can also create blind spots.

When it comes to launching a new idea within an organisation, you first have to get past assumptions to make sure you aren’t blindsided by things you didn’t see coming. Busting assumptions will help you gain new insights and understand new possibilities for your vision.

What are some common mistakes to avoid?

Holst: A common mistake people make when trying to launch their idea is not recognising the three main stages of launching the idea and understanding which phase is your strong suit, and which is a weakness.

We tend to lean in on the phase we most enjoy and are most skilful at. For me, I love to roll up my sleeves and get to work – my superpowers lie in the ‘go’ phase. And knowing that, I have to be disciplined and ensure I’m spending time in the ‘ready’ and ‘set’ phases and continue to check on that work as well.

What makes for a good idea pitch?

Holst: The very best, most innovative ideas that lead to great success were pitched after having a lot of diverse people at the table to help shape the idea.

Ideas aren’t born in a vacuum. When putting together a pitch, getting input from a diversity of stakeholders will allow you to co-collaborate and build together, gaining buy-in along the way.

If you’re coming up against pushback on your idea, what can you do?

Ferguson: Recognising resistance as an opportunity is the first step to innovation and impact. The very things that make you want to quit your job or run away from opposition may be signs that potential innovation and entrepreneurial growth are available.

When resistance is in the form of opposition, look closely at the intersection of your values and where they overlap. Carefully evaluate areas of potential growth and development within yourself, your idea and your company. Use times of resistance as springboards for positive change.

What is the best way to approach negative feedback?

Ferguson: Most importantly, thank them for the feedback. You don’t have to acknowledge that you agree. Simply say: ‘Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad you shared that with me.’

It’s important to remember that feedback of any kind is information – information you can use to better yourself. When receiving negative feedback, it’s helpful to take the role of the objective observer.

When you remove emotion, you are able to see the information more clearly and use it to improve your performance. What opportunities of growth exist? Where can you make adjustments and improvements? How can you use this information to your benefit?

Do you recommend any resources or tools to help with pushing ideas forward?

Ferguson: In Start Within, we have outlined tools and processes to overcome roadblocks and resistance and push your ideas forward.

Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change [by Greg Satell] is another great resource. It is a guide to help you learn how to overcome resistance to change and transform your idea into a movement.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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