Under Control


We all have to deal with reluctant management, especially when trying to sell a new idea, understand that your goal and the organization's goal may be two different things.

First, don't be too original. When presenting your new baby to critics in the company, be aware that incremental change is the watchword of the successful internal champion.

These incremental steps might include a "toy" concept demonstration, full simulation, interactive hands-on, and finally, the alpha unites. Alpha unit designs are meant for the garbage heap, not eventual for the garbage heap, not eventual full scale production. For example, in the early days of the PLC, we did a modular design which did not include programming with ladder logic. Then the Morley Rat Pack did a whole new unit called 084. A languishing performer, but it did attract the attention of some MBAs, who threw me out of the company. Eventually, the 184 concept made all of us a couple of bucks.

The secret was to sell "relay in a box" and not a new computer with real-time operating system. The point is, work within the given infrastructure. Don't try to build a new world. I actually remember the weekend that we forced the Rats to eliminate the "C" (computer) word.

You can distort the infrastructure, but not destroy it. Try promoting evolution as a means to a more radical mutation. Hide behind the cloak of merely trying to "improve" an existing state of affairs.

The early days of Andover Control were a maelstrom of the latest technology in a sea of flagging sales. We convinced an engineering meeting to ascertain the reasons for flaccid market response.

We first listed three reasons for purchasing our products: havoc, cost, and performance. But after much anguish, we ended up with comfort, status, and safety as the key features. The technical staff then used these criteria as the philosophical underpinnings of any design.

We were off and running.

Too often, we decide based on rumor not direct experience. Is RISC really faster? Does the Pentium really have a problem that affect us? Is Chicago the answer to everything? Prestige, PR and media exposure tend to make silk purses out of sows' ears. But we can use this to our own advantage. We can teach them what to believe. Too many engineers scorn the hype of the salesperson, and then fail to understand why their anti-gravity proposal is rejected.

Recently, we invented true anti-gravity, and demonstrated in to some venture capitalists. The demo was a floating aluminum plate. The plate hovered over the conference table, supporting a coffee cup.

The guy said, "So what?"

Agitated, I ranted on about changing the world we live in and other small benefits. He finally recanted his initial rejection and asked me to give an example of concrete benefit.

"Making long-haul trucks able to carry more cargo," replied your intrepid columnist.

"What cargo?" he countered.

"Potatos!" I frothed.

"The market for potatoes this year is marginal, we'll never make money that way."

My lawyer says that the guy will recover and my court costs will be minimal. Best of all, the story illustrates my point that striking out to change the world will only mess up your advantage presentation.

Making ht idea serviceable in the minds of the presentees is the challenge. If acceptance is desired, approval should not entail risking the company of the careers of the backers.

To sell your latest idea for a double-diphthong modifier widget consider the following:

Most new inventions invent themselves. Inventors are merely lucky bystanders. Mutations occur in nonlinear jumps and fall into place. Revisionist history makes the issue "obvious," but most of us know better. The inventor must be irrational, and not listen to conventional wisdom. But most of all, the time must be right.

As appeared in Manufacturing Systems Magazine May 1995 Page 16

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