Monday, February 7, 2011



Have you ever had an experience such as this? You believe in a good idea. You know it could make a crucial difference for you, your organization, and your community. You present it and hoping to garner some enthusiastic support. Instead, you get confounding questions, inane comments, and verbal bullets. Before you know what’s hitting you, you idea is dead and shot down. Personally, I have lots of such experiences, from presenting a business pitch in a room full of venture capitalists to guessing to add a new position for a department. People can always come up with questions which I can neverprepare myself for. This would put me in a vulnerable position, because I cannot provide perfect answers for those unexpected questions.  Before I know it, more and more people start to jump in and question the idea. At the end, my idea is dead.
In a book titled “Buy*In” offers a systematic method to handle these tough questions when you presents your new ideas or proposals. This book is written by John P. Kotter (a professor inleadership and change management at Harvard Business School) and Lorne A. Whitehead (a leader of education innovation at the University of British Columbia). They put years of real life experiences  in corporations and combine  complicated theories to create the method. Don’t worry though. The goal of this book is to provide practical tools for business practitioners, and not to pose an academic argument. Therefore, this book is written in very plain and simple English. They also use a lot of storytelling methods to demonstrate how their method works in real life settings. 

The premise of this book is very similar to the book which I have introduced before “Getting Past No: Negotiating With Difficult People”. They both focus on getting what you want through people by using effective communication. Their methods are also heavily influenced by eastern philosophies. For example, these two books mention about the true victory is to win over people minds and hearts by understanding their concerns and desires, not by logics and facts. This is directly from Sun Tzu Strategy.
 So why do you need to read another similar book then? A major difference in these two books is that their methods are based on very different perspectives.  Getting Past No: Negotiating With Difficult People” is mostly based on psychology theories. The book pays very close attention to evaluating your opponent’s mental state. Whereas, “Buy*In” is based on sociology perspective. It focuses on manipulating social dynamic to push new ideas through. The focus is not on the person who asks the questions. Instead, we pay full attention on what questions have been asked and how these questions influence other people.    
In reality, many of us have to sell our ideas to people who we have little knowledge of, much less their backgrounds. Or, we have to present our proposals to about 30-60 people. It is often impossible to check on everyone’s background before presentations and monitoring everyone’s mental state during presentations.
 So, what can we do instead? “Buy*In” suggests that we should pay full attention to  responding tough questions. We use these questions as a lever to control social dynamics. Once, we have the control over the social dynamics. We can use it as a weapon to get people to say yes to our ideas. Does it sound unreal? Honestly I did not believe that when I read the first chapter. However, when I finished the book, I have realized most of today’s  politicians are using these techniques throughout their careers. Many business practitioners are also using these techniques to get things done.
If you are interested in learning this judo like technique to get your ideas or proposals through people, please have a look at the mind map below and buy the book. Personally, I really find it very useful.

Click here to download the mind map

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