While many companies are creating new innovations everyday, others are still operating as if it’s the 20th century. If you think your business could use a bit of new technology — or even just some efficiency — here’s how to find out how to bring your company into the modern world.
Did you hear about how the White House is still using floppy disks?
No, it’s not a joke (sadly enough). As reported in Business Insider earlier this month, the White House’s newest Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, faces several unique challenges when it comes to bringing the federal government’s technology in sync with 2015. Perhaps the most surprising task on her list is one we’re shocked to hear about: transitioning away from the use of floppy disks.
Floppy disks, for those of you who only recognize technology that came out in the past 24 hours, are plastic, square-shaped data storage devices with a hole in the center. They are easily corruptible and have limited storage space. If you went to college in the early 2000s, you may have had the unfortunate experience of losing an entire 20-page thesis to a floppy disk that suddenly became unreadable for no explicable reason.
While floppy disks have been obsolete for more than a decade, our federal government is still relying on them for storage.
Your company may not be quite as behind as the White House technology department, but chances are it has some outdated practices you’ve been itching to bring into the 21st century. And even if you’re only a mid-level employee, there are plenty of ways you can help modernize your company — and earn yourself a few brownie points to boot.
Here’s how to go about it without making your boss want to give you the boot. (Click here to tweet this list.)
Employers value intrapreneurs — workers who care enough about the company to put in extra work, come up with innovative new ideas and help their organization evolve rather than simply punching a clock and keeping a desk chair warm. But many companies, as much as they herald innovation, still have trouble fully embracing change, especially when the idea is initiated from anyone below the top of the corporate totem pole.
The way to get your ideas heard is to first demonstrate yourself as the sort of person who has good ideas. And the best way to do this is to start by suggesting small changes that will be easier for people to accept and building off those successes.
Before you embark on a quest to eliminate all unnecessary meetings, for instance, you might want to suggest minor tweaks to make existing meetings more efficient, such as circulating an agenda with action items beforehand and making sure everyone who’s been invited is crucial to the meeting’s success.
Not only will people begin to respect your input, but it’s a good way to test out just how open your organization is to new ideas.
Choose the right time
Throwing in a brand-new idea at the end of a long, tedious team meeting won’t do anything but make people groan and check their watches. Ambushing your boss in the middle of a hectic deadline to say, “This could be so much easier if we did X” won’t work well, either.
Identify a time when your audience will be the most agreeable, receptive and free from distractions before pitching your proposal. Maybe that’s right after lunch when your manager is feeling a little groggy and would rather chat about ideas than deal with all the paperwork awaiting him. Maybe it’s 4 p.m. on a Friday when you know the boss’s head is filled with pleasant thoughts about golfing and sailing over the weekend. Or maybe it’s when you take key coworkers out for lunch and toss around your idea in a more relaxed setting.
Know your colleagues’ routines and rhythms so you can approach them when they’re at their most likely to say “yes.”
Come prepared to prove your case
Higher-ups and decision-makers like cold, hard data. It makes it easier for them to see the ROI in an idea and to understand why new is better rather than just different.
If you’re proposing a switch to a new type of software, process or system, come armed with plenty of facts and figures that demonstrate why it’s more efficient, more effective or helps generate more revenue. Saying, “We should have a Twitter account because everyone else does” won’t convince anyone. Instead, try “Studies show an engaging Twitter account leads to 40 percent more customer conversions.”
Don’t be afraid to throw in a little peer pressure, too. If you can demonstrate that other companies in your industry are doing things the way you propose (especially direct competitors), it could help push the vote in your favor.
Be cool about it
You don’t want to be seen as an upstart, a know-it-all or one of those “entitled” Millennials corporate America is all up in arms about. Even if you know for a fact that “the way things have always been done” is outdated and ineffective, no one will listen to you if it feels like you’re being uppity about it.
Whatever your true thoughts about an antiquated system or process, restrain your desire to vent or make fun, and instead focus on presenting your new idea as something that will make the company better. Spend less time tearing down the old ways and more time building up why your solution will make life better for everyone.
It’s easier to get change adopted — especially when you yourself aren’t yet in a position of power — if you can get an influencer or two on your side to help champion your cause. That could be a higher-up like a manager, a respected colleague whose star in on the rise, or a secretly powerful small player like the CEO’s personal assistant, who sees all and knows just how to push the CEO’s buttons.
In addition to getting backers on your side, work on winning over those colleagues who will be directly impacted by your idea. Explain how it will make their day-to-day job easier. Ask for their feedback to help strengthen your proposal. Show them why they should care.
If you’re sick of everyone mixing up the multiple versions of documents that are traded back and forth over the course of the day, show some of your team members how easy and efficient it is to use a real-time collaborative program like Google Docs. Once they’ve seen the difference for themselves, they’ll be happy to help you campaign for a better system.
Have you tried to introduce change into your company? What strategies did you use?
Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.