Stories of WYWM - Selling Ideas and the Terrible Toos by Audrey McLean

Mel O'Sullivan - August 31, 2021

“And that’s my idea. What do you think?”

I was in a Teams meeting with WYWM’s CTO and head of System Two. I was showing her a prototype I’d built a week ago, based on an idea I’d had two weeks ago.

The truth is, I’ve always had plenty of ideas. What if we used animation to communicate scenarios to workshop participants? What if we took these paper forms, made them digital and allowed people to complete them on their phones? What if I used rare earth magnets to mount my medals so I’d stop pushing holes in expensive outfits on ANZAC Day? Generally, however, when I had these ideas, I’d be hit with a barrage of what I like to call ‘the toos.’ It’s too hard, too much, too big, too soon, too impractical, or worst of all: too outside your lane.

This is not to say that some of my ideas didn’t warrant the toos. Magnet mounted medals may sound like a great idea, but ANZAC Day isn’t the only time people wear medals and having them detach from their owner mid-parade is likely to cause some raised eyebrows. At a minimum. Alright, I’ll give you that this one probably was too impractical, and that’s okay. Feedback is a critical part of refining ideas, and every too I ever got taught me something about selling ideas.

It’s too big, or too soon. Clearly, I haven’t done enough to show you the need that supports this idea. A solution without a problem is just noise. Also, just because this situation frustrates one person, doesn’t mean that it frustrates everyone. If you have a big idea, then you have to show that the problem it solves is just as big; and for a significant amount of people.

It’s too hard, or too much. Clearly, I haven’t done enough to convince you that I’ve thought this idea through, and I’m willing to do the work. It’s not enough to simply have a vague idea, you have to have a plan, and be willing to not only see it through but often push it through. An idea without a plan is just a daydream, and an idea without a commitment is just an increased workload for those around you.

Then there were the too outside your lane remarks. Okay, maybe it was outside my lane.  But if I had the passion to articulate it, the evidence to support it, and the drive to learn whatever I needed to build it, why wouldn’t you open the gate and let me run with it? This particular type of too taught me I was taking my idea to the wrong people. Not everyone has an appetite for the risk that is so often associated with innovation. Not everyone has the energy to invest in more than they currently have in front of them, and that’s okay too. But if you really believe in your idea, you need to put it in front of the right people. The people who have the appetite and the energy.

This brings us back to my Teams meeting with the CTO. I’d already had a lot of positivity from my colleagues and managers in previous meetings, but what did she think? Well, let's just say that I'm now working with Product Growth to get the idea built.

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