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Moses Had No Buy-In

If you’ve often wondered why Moses and the Israelites spent 40 years in the desert, it’s probably because Moses presented the “Ten Commandments” without first reading Buy-In, a new book by John P. Kotter and Lorne A. Whitehead that deconstructs why good ideas get shot down. The authors use a hypothetical case study about a community library to showcase four primary tactics – confusion, death by delay, fear mongering, and ridicule or character assassination – which some people use in meetings to derail consensus around even the most obviously logical decisions. Kotter and Whitehead offer group leaders specific responses to defuse 24 variations on attacks used by naysayers to hijack meetings. They also outline a five-step strategy for obtaining enthusiastic group support for your ideas:

  1. Gain people’s attention by allowing the attackers in and letting them attack.
  2. Win the minds of the relevant, attentive audience with simple, clear and commonsense responses.
  3. Win their hearts by, most of all, showing respect.
  4. Constantly monitor the people whose agreement you need: the broad audience, not the few attackers.
  5. Prepare for these steps in advance.

The “Ten Commandments” are undoubtedly one of the more enduring lists of guiding principles ever developed. To avoid your good ideas taking 40 years to be accepted, I recommend using Kotter and Whitehead’s methods to get real buy-in.

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