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Out of Our Minds
Sunday, September 12, 2004 1:20 PM
Selling Your Idea when Everyone thinks you're nuts
Anita Sharpe on Business

When Paul Otellini, president and likely future CEO of Intel, took on the challenge of re-invigorating the chip maker, he had a heretical idea: stop focusing on making faster chips. Instead, make products that do more things consumers want: security, wireless web connectivity, better sound and graphics, etc.

The reception inside Intel: laughter to lists of 'thousands of reasons why he was wrong,' according to a story in today's New York Times business section.

Haven't we all been in similar positions? You have what you think is a great idea and lots of really smart people think your idea is, well, the dumbest thing they ever heard.

What did Otellini do? He asked all the naysayers to think of five reasons why his idea might work. By making the process collaborative and prompting the critics to reframe the problem in their own minds, he won them over.


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g - 12/4/2004 3:42:56 AM

'think different' ... there's a huge difference between thinking and doing, let alone convincing others to do the same.

In reality, it's a LOT easier to go with the crowd and get with the program. I'm not saying that we all should get on the bandwagon and forget it. But tilting at windmills also be energy draining, too.

Agreed. And sometimes there's a duty to go the other way and in being different stand up for stuff that matters.

So, if you're on that course... my best to you. World needs more antidotes.
James - 11/3/2004 6:46:27 PM
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Mindwalker - 9/21/2004 10:42:45 AM
First of all, thank you Anita and Evelyn for your empathy. I really appreciate both notes.

Here's an update now that it's a few days later.

Talking with friends and my fiancee over the weekend helped immeasurably. The universal reaction has been shock and incredulity. Almost everyone more or less comes to the same conclusion I did: I was written up for wishing someone the Jewish equivelant of 'Merry Christmas.'

Emotionally, I've moved past the shock and the anger. I'm not in the mood for retribution, although part of me feels revenge would be sweet. Instead, I've decided to re-channel and transform the anger into something else. Holding on to the anger feels like I'm just injecting poison into my system. Not good, any way you look at it. I do feel a little numb, but that will pass in time.

Professionally, this has rocked me to the core. The workplace environment here at BigCorp. is now a few degrees cooler than it was last week. At the advice of some people I trust a great deal, I'm avoiding the guy who made the comment. Unless we have to work together on a project or task, I'm having nothing to do with him. I just don't want to be the catalyst for something else. I'm also considering that it's time to look elsewhere for employment.

A friend suggested that I make a big stink at Christmastime. After all, he felt that since I had been discimrinated against, why not return the same right back?

I rejected this immediately. I have dealt with being the sole Jewish kid around ever since I was 8 years old and we had a 'Christmas Pageant' at my school. I'm okay with people wishing me 'Merry Christmas' -- in fact, I often with people 'Merry Christmas' because I believe in and celebrate the gracious spirit of the season. In addition, I am engaged to be married to a wonderful woman who also happens to not be Jewish. In fact, our house has two big windows in front and every December has both a big Christmas tree and a beautiful menorah right in front where everyone can see them. With all this in mind, putting up a stink about the religious themes that will enter the workplace come December would be disingenuous on my part and unproductive.

The lesson here for me was just to be a litle more careful about sending e-mails of a religious nature to people. Even though I worded it very carefully (I work as a Copywriter for a living, after all), someone misinterpreted what I wrote. The three other people I cc'd the message to didn't and shared Anita's initial reaction.

As I wrote, it is difficult to be yourself when there is so much pressure in this world to be Something Else, especially in the Dilbertized corporate world. Even though the new year has gotten off to a bumpy start, I still pray that it will be shannah nechama - a 'year of comfort.'
Evelyn Rodriguez - 9/17/2004 8:56:22 PM
I am stunned as well especially as you said this was a friend you sent it to. Many more people are uncomfortable with genuine, 'touchy-feely', 'from-the-heart' emails than religion per se. I hope you are able to resolve this and keep your heart open regardless.

On Otelleni, yes it is easier to go with the crowd but being in a position of authority doesn't necessarily make it that much easier. A great mantra: No one gives you power, you just take it. - Roseanne.
anita - 9/17/2004 7:14:47 PM
I started to write, 'that's unbelievable.' Then I caught myself. It is all too believable in the Dilbert world we live in. Still, I'm stunned that such a wonderful thought/blessing would provoke that kind of response.
Mindwalker - 9/17/2004 6:13:41 PM
Thanks, Anita. That means a lot to me. Especially now.

I sent that message to my best friend, but also two people I consider to be friends at work. One of them loved it, even though she's not religious, and felt it was fascinating.

The other person wrote me an e-mail saying he was uncomfortable with religious themed e-mails. I get back from taking the day off for Rosh Hashannah services and get summoned into a conference room to be told that I have been officially written up for violating my company's harassment policy.

To say I'm shocked is an understatement beyond words.
anita - 9/15/2004 3:53:13 PM
Wonderful blessing. Thanks for sharing.
Mindwalker - 9/15/2004 3:00:17 PM
So many business and motivational books preach and exhort that in order to succeed, you must go against the grain and be the champion for the allegedly-lost cause. What's often not stated (in so many words) is that IT'S HARD. Apple preached 'think different' but there's a huge difference between thinking and doing, let alone convincing others to do the same.

In reality, it's a LOT easier to go with the crowd and get with the program. Otellini was in a position of power, he could afford to be laughed at and spend the time convincing others he was right.

I'm not saying that we all should get on the bandwagon and forget it. But tilting at windmills also be energy draining, too. Otellini turned it around by reframing the question. I admire that.

On similar lines, here is what I wrote to a friend recently as a Rosh Hashannah blessing: 'It is not easy to be who you are or do what you must when there is so much pressure from others to be or do Something Else. May it be that this year, it gets a little easier. May this year be 'shana nechama,' a year of comfort.'


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