Last week you proposed an idea in a meeting and it was shot down.
Today, your co-worker proposed the very same idea and the crowd went wild.
Unfortunately, screaming, “Hey, you stole my idea!” sounds petty and unprofessional.
It can be very frustrating when you propose an idea and it is ignored or dismissed.
It is infuriating, however, when someone else proposes that very same idea and everyone cheers with delight. Has this ever happened to you?
Regaining control over an idea is very tricky, but with strategic action it can be done gracefully. The great news is that as you strategically address the situation, you will also strengthen how you launch ideas — and how people perceive you.
The key to professionally reclaiming your ideas is about getting two things right:
The second is how you leverage other people.
PART TWO: LEVERAGE OTHER PEOPLE
While it may be challenging for YOU to point out when your idea is stolen in a meeting, another person in the room may have an easier time pointing out the error.
1. Use Innocent Power
“Innocent power” is what I call lower-ranking professionals in the room, OR external people: clients, customers and outside partners.
I call all these people who are not senior-ranking, or who are not internal, “innocent power” because they can make observations or ask powerful questions without getting caught up in internal politics.
A person with innocent power can redirect ownership with little personal impact by making an observation or asking a question.
For example, if you are an innocent power, you could say, “I thought it was interesting when Sally mentioned that a few moments ago. Sally, can you tell the group more?”
If you find you are an innocent power in the room, challenge yourself to ask an open question back to the originator of the idea when you see idea migration happen.
The person will be grateful for the assistance. Plus, it’s a great way to show that you are on the ball and paying attention to the details of the meeting.
Allies in the room can also support each other by redirecting the conversation back to the originator.
This can be a little more risky, though, since your allies could get caught in internal politics. But this is a case where the risk may be justified, especially if the person stealing ideas is a repeat offender.
2. Find Stakeholders and Allies
Run the idea by key stakeholders and allies ahead of, and after, the meeting.
Sharing your idea ahead of the meeting is a great way to build support, gain buy-in, and identify where the idea will be challenged. It is also an excellent way to boost your confidence before heading into the meeting.
This will help you strengthen the idea, build your arguments ahead of time, and build allies for the meeting. It will make it practically impossible for your idea to be ignored, or for anyone else to take credit for it.
Now, you don’t always think of ideas ahead of time. Meetings are conducive to collaborative brainstorming, so it is natural that as you gain information and feed off of your co-worker’s insights, you will bubble over with ideas.
So if you propose an idea during a meeting and it gets shot down or ignored, you shouldn’t necessarily let it go.
After the meeting is still a great time to talk to stakeholders to build support and strengthen your arguments. Then, present your idea again in the next meeting.
Sometimes new ideas just need time to marinate. After speaking with other stakeholders, you may find a more influential angle from which to pitch the idea.
If you frequently present ideas during meetings, which then get stolen or migrate, it may be an indication that you have great ideas that need a little time to sit with people, or be presented from a slightly different angle.
So don’t let go of good ideas too soon.
Review your ideas with key people after the meeting, even if your idea was ignored or shot down. This is a key habit you need to adopt to successfully launch ideas.
3. Let It Go
Yup, this is an article about recapturing your ideas AND I am going to contradict myself here with this suggestion. It’s for a good reason; you will see.
If you cling too much to ownership of an idea, you might get stuck in time grappling to understand what just happened and how to deal with it.
- Bask in the validation that you had a fantastic idea. Keep up the good work!
- Learn from the situation. How would you launch your idea differently next time?
- Focus on being a good team member and “servant leader.” Support the creativity on the team by sharing, borrowing and building upon ideas.
Your work life will be more fulfilling by improving your idea-launching techniques, while supporting the overall team by “donating” ideas without a care for who takes credit.
This confident attitude, in addition to more effective launches, will be the right balance between a contributor and a respected leader.
Have you ever reclaimed an idea that was stolen by a co-worker? How did you do it?
In the comments below, tell me what happened!