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Moving People Across – The “Inception” Way

Source | LinkedIn : By Ramesh Srinivasan

The underlying, often unasked question with every new initiative is, “Who initiated this?” A team member’s support or otherwise is entirely dependent on his/her equation with the initiator of this new idea, and based on an evaluation of what benefits could accrue to him/her by backing this ‘new stuff’.

In group dynamics, a long-held belief is that people implement what they help create. Whether it is a new strategy or a different way of doing an existing process, people start with a feeling of resentment when it is a ‘hand-me-down’. On the contrary, if they see even a small part of their contribution in the larger plan, they tend to show an enormous amount of ownership.

The neuro-scientific theories underlying the premise of the Hollywood movieInception contains a few clues for those of us who need to get a ‘buy-in’ from those who matter, as part of the normal course of our jobs.

Inception is much more than extraction. We seem to believe that we are all good at ‘extraction’, which is getting people to talk. All it takes is empathy, trust and some good questions. Right? Wrong. In the opening scene of Inception, extraction does not work with Saito because he knows what they are trying to do, and is able to withhold the information despite having it locked in a safe that Cobb finds. When we want to withhold, no amount of extraction skills can work on us. Moral of the story: Extraction is not sufficient for inception to happen.

The title Inception refers to the act of “implanting an idea in a person’s mind by entering his or her dreams”. Inception involves using suggestions with meaningful triggers for the individual.

All of us have dreams. Getting people to trust us enough to share their dreams with us is an art by itself. We may have to help people by reminding them of past dreams that they may have already realized. The pattern of past dreams will lead the person to identify current, as-yet-unfulfilled dreams. Now, all we need to find is a place for our idea in their dream(s).

Inception necessitates understanding the subject’s personality, desires, strengths and shortcomings, and critical relationships. The person you want to influence may not be aware of these ‘buckets’. Your conversation skills should bring out scenarios that will then help you fill each of these items with adequate information. We need to choose a few ‘straws in the wind’ from the stated dreams. Connecting constituents across the ‘buckets’ will always please the subject, and get him/her to share even more of their articulated, and more importantly, unarticulated desires.

To be successful, the idea you are planting must be simple, and it must feel self-generated. Your idea is worthless if it does not get ‘bought’ by them as their idea. It should be wiped clean of all your signatures, styles, flourishes and vocabulary. You must make the time and effort to link the idea to some basic beliefs and aspirations of the receiver.

Inception is time-consuming. It is a skill, and the skill-building process has 3 characteristics. One, the first few attempts will take more effort for less or no results. Two, it gets better with practice. Three, once you get good at it, it takes lesser and lesser time to get better.

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