Buy-in Reviewed

If you’re driving change, you should read Buy-In and you should read it soon.

It’s a quick read.  It’s an easy read. And, thankfully, it’s a practical read.

As a change driver, you’re constantly pitching great ideas to people who don’t have to listen to you, or agree with you, or do anything because of what you said.  In Buy-In, Professor Kotter and co-author Lorne Whitehead offer their winning method for how you can gain buy-in for your ideas and overcome 24 of the most common idea-killing attacks.

Diligently practical, Buy-In is a book you’ll want on your bookshelf.  You’ll want to reference it every time you pitch a great idea.

The book starts with a fictional change story set in a local library, placing you right in the middle of the action.  Writing you into the story, the authors take you through a scene where you and your brother-in-law Hank win over a semi-cynical crowd of your fellow Centerville citizens.  If you prefer a business book with one big narrative over a steam of small tales and long research paper references, you’ll appreciate the quick wit and illustrative dialogue of the Centerville Library meeting.

In part two, Kotter and Whitehead explain in detail the buy-in method they demonstrated in the Centerville Library story.  Starting from four idea-killing attack categories (i.e., fear mongering, delay, confusion and ridicule or character assassination) and the 24 typical idea-killing attacks within those categories, the authors first map the buy-in minefield, then offer you their mine sweeping method for each of the 24 attacks.

Clearly outlined, their method is simple (in a good way), and counter-intuitive:

1. Gain people’s attention by allowing the attackers in and letting them attack.

2. Then win the minds of the relevant, attentive audience with simple, clear, and commonsense responses.

3. Win their hearts by, most of all, showing respect.

4. Constantly monitor the people whose hearts and minds you need; the broad audience, not the few attackers.

5. Prepare for these steps in advance, with the ideas in this book.

What I found truly interesting about their method is that throughout part two and the appendices the authors restate the method in several different ways.  By comparison, most authors of this type of book refuse to vary a single word of their central theme, repeating over and over the same lines.  You’ll probably appreciate the variation of the buy-in method because within the different ways the method is written you’ll likely find one that best speaks to your heart and mind.

Once the method is outline, the authors take you through the 24 idea-killing attacks in a series of one or two page mini-sections, offering their simple, clear response suggestion for each attack.  You’ll need to practice the sort of response that’s right for your idea, but you  should easily be able to vary the simple responses by practicing, whether alone or with the help of a few friends pretending to be hecklers.

In the conclusion, in what I’ve observed is his standard style, Professor Kotter pushes you forward into action with a simple, clear case and a challenge to do more.  Those of you who know the size of the organization I report to every day will appreciate why this quote hit me hard.  He writes,

What if good ideas are crushed (1) twenty times per day in one single, big company (which, if it has ten thousand employees, is a small number of ideas) and (2) once a day for every thousand people in a country (which also sounds very small)?  Do the math, and you find that’s over five thousand good ideas per year shot down in a big company and over three million per year in North America. Three million good ideas a year, the best 1 percent of which–thirty thousand!–might have a very large effect on a few, or maybe most, of us.”

You’re driving change because it’s your passion.  Why not tune up your change driving engine by supercharging your buy-in success rate?  Grab a copy of Buy-In today.  Stage it next to your desk.  Read it. Use it.

Your organization, your country, and maybe even your continent needs your change!  With those stakes, isn’t Buy-In worth a try?

[For those of you more inclined to video than a book, check out the HBR site with four buy-in tactic videos.]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top