Buy-In Explained

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How did the great pyramids get built? How could anybody get a large number of people to take on such a daunting project? Buy-in is how. To return to the Moon we must understand this very human process.

Buy-in is also a key concept in Disempowering Terrorists.

Comprehending Buy-in

Most technical people have a gut feel for the concept of Buy-in. If you experience a buy-in, you hear an idea, you comprehend the idea, you envision yourself succeeding with the idea, you express your support for the idea, and you get in action on the idea.

Please think back on some time when you took on a great project and then stayed with that project for a long time. It could be something from work or a hobby. It could be physical or mental. Sometimes it is about getting something big done. Sometimes it is about self improvement.

Think back on the state of your mind that kept you going. Particularly think back on the hard times when the project was almost stopped. That state of mind is buy-in.

For most people the buy-in state of mind includes a daydream of themselves succeeding with the project. Did you have such a daydream? Did it make any real sense? Did that matter?

The power of buy-in was shown recently with the Mars Rover mission. The JPL team appeared in the heights of ecstasy on national television as their two landers bounced onto the Marian surface. The elevated state of this team was so infectious that even the Governor Schwarzenegger had to be there and the event was played over and over again on PBS. This type of elation is one of the great attractions of technical project work.

Most project people have these daydreams and relish the buy-in state of mind. If this idea rings true to you then continue. If it does not, you might try talking the idea over with friends and coworkers to see how common this experience is.

Defining Buy-in

Various authors use a number terms for this concept. It may be called buy-in, enrollment, owning the process, or signing up. It also can be hidden within larger efforts like military recruitment and corporate sells. These are all variations on one theme.

Under buy-in we hear about a new project, we envision ourselves succeeding with the project, we get in action on the project, and we stay in action on the project. President Kennedy's "We choose to go to the Moon" speech is one of the strongest examples of buy-in in the 20th century. We listened, we envisioned success as a nation, we got into action, we went to the moon. A good buy-in can take place in ten minutes and keep us in action for ten years.

Sales is first cousin to buy-in, but is not the same thing. The first part of both efforts is remarkably similar. The difference comes at the end. At the end of a sale, a product or service has been exchanged for resources and the transaction is concluded. At the same stage in buy-in, the person is in action and will stay in action for a long time.

The heavy use our new understanding of the human brain was introduced into sales in the 1990's. This effort resulted in such industries as the Sport's Utility Vehicle (SUV). Many of these practitioners got very wealthy and are keeping most of their procedures proprietary.

Only by understanding how buy-in works do we have the power to generate it. We now have an excellent model of this process that can be applied to solving our great problems and taking advantage of great opportunities.

Step-by-Step Buy-in

Human beings are doers of great projects. Our brain model can help us understand how such projects are started and sustained. We will need to build and communicate positive world views that invite buy-in to productive projects.

If you are a doer of projects then the following explanation of buy-in generation should be easy for you to relate to your personal experience. While reading it, think back to the start of your best project. How did you get roped into it? What vision of success kept you going though hard periods? How did being in action on a project make you feel?

To enable people to effectively generate and accept buy-in requires a step-by-step process, a formal version of buy-in. Here are the specific steps in the process for inviting people to buy into your idea as it might occur at a project kickoff meeting:

1. Paying attention

When people arrive at a presentation, they are often distracted by things that happened to them just getting there; the traffic was horrible; the weather is worse, here is my very important excuse for being late. None of this is really important but we do need to get it out of the way. The best way to do this is through language. Get people to talk among themselves before the presentation starts. Get your support people to talk to the audience members a little. Hold a conversation with a few key people yourself. Work the crowd a little. Do not bother to take notes on what is said; just get them to say anything about whatever is in the way. It does not have to make much sense. Like excuses, once spoken, the distractive stuff will then fade away into the background.

2. This is important to you

Get the audience to start thinking about how your idea could make them successful in their lives. This starts the Vision of Success process. Be sure they see the presentation as unusual enough to be interesting, but not so unusual as to be threatening. In this process, connect personally with the audience. Make sure they know that you are inviting them to contribute to the project and become part of it.

3. Present the idea

Here you may use any form of media that the audience will find interesting. These days everything is flashy pictures, which is okay but they will not do your job for you. The presentation must be inspiring and show your personal commitment.

Here is where the skill of being a presenter and, to some extent, the skill of generating inspiration, come to the fore. They are crafts to be learned and practiced. Make a study of delivering an inspiring presentation. You can do it.

Examples of how the idea has affected your personal life are usually accepted as important human-to-human communications, but they must be sincere. Over-rehearsed testimonials will put an audience off. Canned jokes and cynical quips can definitely break the development of the idea. If you sound like a TV pitchman or a preacher, then you will be heard as such.

The presentation must have content, that is, information of real value to the audience must be there. Whiz-bang and flash are not enough. Lack of real content was one of the major problems in the Dot-Com boom and bust. In that boom, technical people demonstrated simultaneously that you can build Visions of Success on pure whiz-bang and that a boom built on this foundation of sand will not last.

The presentation must have integrity. Human beings have a specific brain module for spotting phonies. This module is hardwired to an anxiety center. It is so astute that advertisements in magazines and on TV must have a recognizable format different from the program content. If the ads look and sound too much like the real content, people will first be fooled and then get very angry. Done poorly, a formal buy-in presentation comes across as a hidden hard sell, and it will then greatly upset people.

Most of our integrity problems in life come from our saying one thing and doing another. It is very important to be up front about what you are doing and to hide nothing. Early on you need to find a good way to say that you are intentionally trying to get people into action on your great idea.

4. Invitation to Buy-in

Don't use fancy graphics, you can leave something on the screen, but it must not be very interesting and it certainly must not be moving around or flashing. The next step must be done in language only. It can be written in text but it is most often spoken. You must assist the people of the audience in generating their individual Vision of Success with your idea. You should then see at least a few eyes light up.

Make it perfectly clear that it is completely all right if they choose not to buy into your idea, but invite them to do so just the same. They must have free choice or they will later angrily reject the idea.

5. Opportunity for language

Give everyone in the audience a chance to be moved to language. This usually means at least some time for questions and answers. But if the audience is large, you may need to get them talking among themselves for five minutes or send them to dinner in groups. Listen for any version of "I'm for this idea." With young people, it could be as simple as the word, "Cool."

6. Short-term actions

Make sure that there is some opportunity for short-term action. Something is available they can do this week without actually committing to changing their lives. Reference lists to take home and Web sites to surf are great here. It is not necessary that they be able to contact you personally, but a contact possibility with an appropriate organization or discussion group will be most helpful. If they have bought in, they need to have a clear next step to take.

7. Long-term action

Make doubly sure that there is an opportunity for long-term action available. They need to know how they can make a real contribution to the project. These are the actions that get the job done and get the problems solved.

8. Vision of Success in memory

You should suggest that they recall their Vision of Success from time to time. This can take the form of describing your personal practices in this area.

Consequences of Buy-in

Do not expect this process to be 100% successful. A 5% improvement over having no plan and just prattling on is great. The results compound like interest. Getting a response of "I'll think about it," is much better than getting one of "never"; they may be slowly building their Vision of Success.

The key to our success is to get each person to envision a positive personal vision of success to keep them in action. This will also help them to reject negative ones.

I first encounter this model under the name Enrollment in training courses of Landmark Education Corporation in about 1995. Their courses are still widely available and are about the best available for learning this approach.

The Lunarpedia Buy-in

What Lunarpedia is then is an invitation to a buy-in for its core idea of human being returning to settle the Moon. It invites you to understand this idea, envision yourself succeeding with this idea, and getting in action on this idea.

Above all we will provide people with a positive vision of the future as a basis of action.

There are a lot more ideas on the Purposes List.