One question near the end of my “Making Big Ideas Happen” presentation at the Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference was on how to handle people who try to say no to challenging thinking and plans because of potential risks.

My answer was people who say no to a big idea are doing so out of some type of fear. It could be fear of change, failure, or the unknown. It could be fear of any number of other things.

There’s no single answer for addressing innovation fears across organizations. Your best strategy depends on the people and circumstances standing in the way of your big ideas. That’s what all the work we’ve done on Taking the NO Out of InNOvation is all about.

Here are nine initial possibilities for conquering risk-related innovation fears within your organization when you’re the one who is pushing for making big ideas happen.

  1. Work to redirect fears about your big idea toward one or more threats that could loom even larger if your innovation doesn’t come to fruition.
  2. Mitigate the fear of risk by breaking the steps to accomplish your idea into small phases. Then sell-in only a few steps at a time.
  3. After determining what is critical to your big idea’s success, compromise on elements that are not essential but whose absence could lower potential fears or perceived risk with big innovation.
  4. Involve the naysayer directly in developing your big idea to attempt to get them invested in your innovation effort.
  5. Create a stealth innovation effort. Only reveal the innovation effort’s existence after it has moved down the road to being realized.
  6. Provide case studies of organizations or people who have overcome the same fear of a new idea.
  7. Share case studies of comparable situations where an idea similar to yours brought about favorable improvements for another organization.
  8. Get the fears out in the open and innovate around them.
  9. Present facts and logic (along with some emotional impact) to refute the fears.

What do you do about making big ideas happen when you’re behind them? – Mike Brown

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.