Brain power

How to successfully pitch your idea to your boss

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

There is an inevitable sense of nervousness whenever we pitch a new idea to our manager.  We’re putting our wisdom on the line, and as most ideas tend to buck the norm in some way, we’re running the significant risk of those ideas being shot down.  New research1 from the University of California Davis suggests there are approaches you can take to give your idea the best chance of finding a receptive audience.

The first tip they offer is to know your leader. This seems like an obvious starting point, as it’s vital that you have a reasonable understanding of the person you’re pitching to.  This is especially so for very creative ideas, as an insight into the tastes and priorities of a leader can give you a steer as to whether they will like your idea.

Next, they believe being able to affirm their identity is also crucial.  The notion is that you’ll need to pitch the idea in a way that affirms the identity of the leader.  So, if they believe themselves to be super creative or a master of innovation, then frame your idea accordingly.  Adopt a different approach to pragmatists than you would idealists.

The third tip the researchers provide is to have a dedicated strategy for pragmatists.  Evidence suggests that your leader is much more likely to be a pragmatist than an idealist, as pragmatic qualities are often highly sought after in leadership roles.  Consider framing your idea as being one that will bolster the feasibility of their projects.  Also ensure that your ideas have detailed steps that render them quick to implement.

For idealists, the researchers suggest a softer sell is best.  They state that idealists are more likely to see their projects as a reflection of them as individuals.  When pitching to an idealist, therefore, you need to show some appreciation for their vision and artistic approach, whilst also preserving their ownership of the project.

Interestingly, the researchers don’t believe your own identity as either a pragmatist or idealist should not act as a limit to how you pitch your ideas.

“The (self-identified) personal identities of the idea givers did not prevent them from using either a high- or low-conviction approach to idea giving,” they conclude.

Article source: How To Successfully Pitch Your Idea To Your Boss.


  1. Elsbach, K. (2020). Giving ideas that won’t get rejected: how personal identity relates to idea-taking in creative collaboration. Innovation, 22(1), 12-38.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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