“Just try it”? How NOT to sell a controversial idea

Alas: when it comes to pitching a controversial idea, many of us in technology fail miserably. We often fall reflexively into extreme “oversalesmanship” of a pet idea. We tend towards the binary: we seem to find it next to impossible to see the idea’s downsides, or to imagine how other people might be viewing it and how we could usefully, effectively, and without condescension counter their various objections (i.e., barriers to the “sale”) of our idea. 

Instead, here’s how we often react. We “flip the bozo bitall too readily on anyone who criticizes our baby: such folks are clearly clueless, we think; we rant that they must not be technical; they’ve “probably never written software at all” and “possibly can’t work their <expletive> email; they’re a PHB; they’re a troll; they’re a dinosaur; we can’t wait for them to die out so we, the enlightened wizards, can take over. (Actual examples of such declarations are easy to find).

None of this attitude is inevitable or unfixable. A start at combating this weakness when selling others on a controversial idea is to heighten our own awareness of the problem. Inspect and adapt, after all. So let’s focus here on one particular tactic of such bad salesmanship, as frequently employed by the (yes, very controversial) #NoEstimates movement: the “just try it” taunt. [Read more…]