How To Pitch Your Best Ideas (Transcript)

WorkLife with Adam Grant

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Listen Along


[00:01:00] VOICE 1:
Dear Adam, I have a great investment opportunity for you. Let me tell you about my startup.

[00:06:87]VOICE 2:
I know we've never met, but here's why you should endorse my book

[00:00:12] VOICE 3:
Is your team hiring? Cause I'd be a great fit.

[00:00:22] Adam Grant:
Every day. I get dozens of pitches, some come from strangers around the world. Others from people I know..

[00:00:22] VOICE 4:
We'd love for you to come speak to our company.

[00:00:25:30] VOICE 5:
Can you fix our toxic culture?

[00:00:27:04] VOICE 6:
You should really consider being my mentor.

[00:00:29] Adam’s Child:
Will you make me breakfast, Daddy? [Laughter]

[00:00:34] Adam Grant:
And let's just say some are stronger than others. .We all give pitches at work. When you give a speech, you're pitching a vision. When you make a suggestion in a meeting you're pitching an idea. When you apply for a job, you're pitching yourself. Pitching can feel like selling, but you don't have to be a great salesperson to give a great pitch. And sometimes less selling is more.


I’m Adam Grant, and this is WorkLife, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I’m an organizational psychologist.
I study how to make work not suck. In this show, I take you inside the minds of fascinating people to rethink how we work, lead, and live.
Today: How to get your foot in the door with a great pitch– and what to do if the door slams shut.
Thanks to UKG for sponsoring this episode.

When you make a pitch, it’s often not the idea that leads to rejection– it’s how you present it.
In tech and entertainment, there are tons of great ideas that initially got denied.
Excite declined a pitch to buy a tiny startup called Google. Blockbuster passed on a pitch to acquire Netflix.
A dozen publishers turned down Harry Potter, and multiple movie studios rejected Star Wars.

These ideas eventually found a receptive audience. But in many cases, you only have a chance for a short elevator pitch. So you want to maximize your chances of a yes before the door closes.

A couple months ago, a venture capitalist sent me a pitch from a startup founder named Jessica Holton.

[00:02:30] Jessica Holton:
I wanted to follow up on our conversation recently about potentially partnering with Adam Grant. We believe he would be a strong addition to our investor and partner group as we seek to revolutionize relationship health…


[00:02:38] Adam Grant:
I was intrigued, she was clearly excited about her idea–to make relationship counseling available online. But as I read her pitch, I had some hesitations. I wrote down my feedback… Hmm, why do we need it and how do we know it will work?

[00:02:54] Jessica Holton:
…Just closed a three and a half million dollar seed round that was three times oversubscribed led by TMV with participation from Serena Ventures, Collaborative Fund, and Lake House Ventures.

[00:03:05] Adam Grant:
Ok…They’ve convinced investors who are kind of a big deal. Buuuut….

[00:03:10] Jessica Holton:
We have the best team in the world to build a brand that makes relationship health accessible.

[00:03:15] Adam Grant:
Best team in the world? More than a little self-aggrandizing. I sent them some tough love aaaaand… I didn’t hear back. So I decided to call the founder and see if she wanted to talk through what happened.

[00:03:30] Jessica Holton:
I'm Jessica and I am one of the co-founders of ours, which is a relationship health company.

[00:03:36] Adam Grant:
Did you know when you wrote that pitch that you were pitching yourself to be on WorkLife?

Jessica Holton:
[Laughter] Not at all.

Adam Grant:
When you got my feedback How did you react?

Jessica Holton:
Well, the first reaction truly was, “oh my gosh!” I was proud to know that you now know what Ours is and clearly want us to succeed. The second reaction was embarrassment and I felt a little defensive, to be honest.

[00:04:05] Adam Grant:
I thought the idea itself had merit. But the pitch fell into some common traps that I see regularly– not just in startup pitches, but in meetings and job applications, too. And to her credit, Jessica had the confidence, the humility, and the courage to discuss them with me. There are three big myths that limit the effectiveness of a pitch. And I want to bust them, because they often lead to bad advice.

[00:04:31] Jessica Holton:
Oh, I've gotten a lot of advice. One is how to sell a vision. Sell that future–paint a world where what our mission is comes true and becomes reality.

[00:04:44] Adam Grant:
That’s the first myth: “lead with your bold idea! Tell us how much better the world will be in the future when you’re successful.” But research suggests that no one cares what you’ll create in the future until you convince them there’s something wrong with the present. Before you propose your solution, you need to highlight an important problem. In her pitch, Jessica led with a solution:

[00:05:12] Jessica Holton:
We seek to revolutionize relationship health.

[00:05:14] Adam Grant:
You have this bold vision to revolutionize relationship health. Why does relationship health need to be revolutionized? Like where is the proof that it's broken, that people are in pain, that they're struggling with their relationships, that they don't have the existing access to the solutions they need? Why did you leave that out?

[00:05:34] Jessica Holton:
We left that out because we got feedback time and time again that when we tell the kind of more bottoms up story around how I got interested in couples therapy it didn't, paint as big enough of a vision as changing an entire industry. We see couples all the time who love what we're doing and we help their relationship get better. And we changed their lives. So to us, it's like, you know how a fish doesn't know it's in water and to us, it's just truly a given that there's so much need and untapped demand for what we're building that to us, it's obvious.

[00:06:22] Adam Grant:
When you pitch your idea, you suffer from what’s called the curse of knowledge: you’ve spent days, months, maybe years thinking about the problem. It’s so crystal-clear in your mind that you often forget to explain it to others. Before people will believe that your idea will make the world better, you have to explain what’s wrong with the world right now. This isn’t unique to entrepreneurs. In his most famous speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t open with his dream. Before turning to his vision for tomorrow, he spent the first 11 of his 16 minutes describing the injustice of today. As communication expert Nancy Duarte explains, you have to show people what’s unacceptable about “what is” before they’ll get excited about “what could be.” As a job applicant, instead of leading with what makes you a strong candidate, start with what the company needs. As a leader, rather than opening with your vision, tell us what the market demands.

[00:07:27] Jessica Holton:
There's actually very little data around couples therapy. Around couples who want to go to couples therapy–We had this moment of, “well, we could actually go do that survey and we could go find that data.” And so to be honest, that's the reason why we wrote this email before we realized that, and before we started going out there to find the data.

[00:07:51] Adam Grant:
Have you done that survey yet?

Jessica Holton:
It's in progress right now,

Adam Grant:
Great. Cause I mean, there's so many things that I would want to know from that. Right. I think, frankly, that's, that's even something you could say, right? Like we, we know anecdotally there's a pressing need. We're in the process of trying to document that need. I think that what was missing for me in the pitch was there is a pressing need and the existing offerings are just not cutting it.

[00:08:16] Jessica Holton:
You're absolutely right. And, it starts with the problem and then a survey of what's happening right now and then a solution. And I can very much see why that's more compelling than just, I mean, we could revolutionize everything. Right. And what I'm everything, right, is “why does this need to be revolutionized?”

[00:08:37] Adam Grant:
Yeah, I can see you are passionate about improving relationships.

Jessica Holton:
I think that that passion is what fuels me.

[00:08:44] Adam Grant:
That brings us to a second myth: that a great pitch is filled with passion!

I see this in so many founders...they want to electrify the room with their energy.

But in a study of a business plan competition, the amount of passion that founders showed had no bearing on whether judges decided to fund their pitches.

It didn’t matter how much excitement they expressed. The founders who got investments were the ones who were rated as more thoughtful, logical, and fact-based.

In another study of over 1400 pitch videos, founders who showed too much joy were less likely to get funded. They weren’t taken seriously.

And in a controlled experiment, delivering a more animated pitch didn’t increase the odds of success, but having a high-quality business plan did.

It’s helpful to feel passion. But what you need to show most is preparedness.

The most important step in convincing people to bet on you isn’t to express enthusiasm. It’s to prove that you’ve done your homework.

Think about the most impressive entrepreneurs you’ve seen on Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den. They’re not always the most entertaining presenters. They’re the founders who know their numbers cold. It gives you confidence that they’ll make smart decisions and be ready for any crisis.

In Jessica's situation, I wanted to see what her team knew about counseling, or about providing services to couples online… especially if they consider themselves one of the first to market.

[00:10:23] Jessica Holton:
I guess I would pose the question to you. Like what would we have said besides a description of the team, uh, to ease that concern?

[00:10:33] Adam Grant:

What I can't see in your pitch is, like what do you know about relationship health? Has anyone tested whether this works as well online as it does in person? What do you know about providing services to couples online where confidentiality is potentially a huge concern, privacy is a major issue, and there are all these open questions, right.

That would have signaled to me is okay, you've identified a gap in the market. What I want to know is like, have you really done your homework and demonstrated to me that you're the team that's going to fill that gap most effectively.

[00:11:05] Jessica Holton:
Yeah, so believe it or not, there were several versions of this email that we iterated on, that we drafted. I think, whether right or wrong, in our minds, we said, let's just get enough info there to open the door. And at that point we thought that the external metrics of fundraising would be enough to say, “Hey, we showed all of our investors that we have the chops that we have identified the opportunity.”

[00:11:39] Adam Grant:
In her pitch email, Jessica did highlight the strengths of her team.

[00:11:44] Jessica Holton:
We have the best team in the world to build a brand that makes relationship health accessible. Jessica and myself at Stanford business school grad and data-driven experienced builder, Adam, a Kellogg Design and Business School grad and creative community builder, Liz, a world renowned couples therapist and best-selling author and Tyler a deeply experienced and innovative full stack engineer…


[00:12:01] Adam Grant:

Which takes us to our third myth: the key task in a pitch is to project confidence.

Evidence shows that when people are considering working with you, they careat least as much about whether you’re collaborative as whether you’re capable.

And I’ve found that one of the ways to signal that you’re collaborative is to talk about some of your shortcomings.

It shows you’re receptive to input and open to learning.

You might do that by seeking advice on one of your drawbacks, sharing how you’ve grown from your mistakes, admitting some of your uncertainties, or asking a question.

It might sound like a lack of confidence– but it actually takes confidence to admit what you don’t know.

Of course, this is tricky for female leaders, who unfairly face plenty of barriers and stereotypes.

For example, research shows that investors typically ask male founders about upside potential (how will you win?) but female founders about downside risk (how will you make sure you don’t lose?).

So, for better or worse, a lot of advisors told Jessica that it was critical to express confidence.

[00:13:13] Jessica Holton:
One of the things that really came across was this idea of “be more confident” means speaking in grand terms.

[00:13:23] Adam Grant:
I definitely had an allergic reaction to the best team in the world.on what standard, what are your data? I think I might've called it self-aggrandizing.

[00:13:31] Jessica Holton:
I clearly see how in writing that sounds, uh, very egotistical. And, I see that, you know, who am I to say that I have the best team in the world? This is really the first time that we were pitching in written form. And, um, it's, it's totally different, it's a different world of pitching in words, then pitching in a conversation.

[00:13:56] Adam Grant:
That is not a distinction that I really thought through going into this conversation. You come across as warm and charismatic and approachable and curious and humble, and nobody in a million years would ever judge you as arrogant from meeting you. And in fact, the concern would be that you seem so enthusiastic and joyful that especially as a woman, people would unfairly judge you as a little Pollyanna. And in writing, all that goes away and it sounds like “I'm awesome.”

[00:14:25] Jessica Holton:
[Slight laughter] What you just said resonates so much. I have this group of female entrepreneurs. I'm in so many WhatsApp groups–all we talk about in a lot of ways is how to pitch more like a man. And that translates into “be more confident.” Yes, men might tend to do that more, and men are getting more funding, but it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

I think I misinterpreted that and found kind of like a shortcut to be more successful is to speak in this case overly confident way that decreases my credibility.

[00:15:01] Adam Grant:
And it shouldn't be your responsibility as a woman founder to have to figure out “okay what kind of contortion act do I have to master to come across as appropriately confident but not arrogant and to show that I am warm, but not Pollyanna.”

[00:15:19] Jessica Holton:
I'm curious to hear, like, how do you advise people on having that humility and being that gentle leader, or learning, open, curious leader, admitting what I don't know, and also if using strength and credibility and inspiration.

[00:15:36] Adam Grant:
That’s a really good question. I'm not saying you should come into the pitch and say, “We are completely unqualified to be running this company. You've heard of imposter syndrome, but we are actual imposters!” But I think that confidence is overrated and humility is underrated.

I think that the kind of confidence I want to see is what Reid Hoffman described to me once is a confidence in your ability to learn. As opposed to trying to show that you've already figured it out.

[00:16:10] Jessica Holton:
It very much makes sense. It kind of makes our team more rigid than fluid. And I can see how, you know, by me taking the statement of, “we have the best team in the world to do this.” It doesn't leave room for, well, what if we could be even better? Or what if that's different in a year when we're serving couples at different life stages, or we go beyond couples?

[00:16:36] Adam Grant:
The research that I really like on this is on what's called signaling receptivity, which again, I don't think you have to do because of your personality. It comes across naturally. But in writing, I'd want to see that you're committed to both identifying and overcoming the limitations of your approach, basically. So I might suggest, you know, here's, here's a current challenge that we're facing, which also by the way, as a potential adviser, that makes me more interested in helping.

I think asking a question or two is another way to signal receptivity. So when you write a pitch like this, you could easily say, If you are willing to talk to us, here are the three initial questions that we would love to run by you, which signals you're going to use my time well. Admitting uncertainty and acknowledging mistakes are probably the other two that come out in the research. So acknowledging uncertainty would be saying, we who we know that a lot of people are struggling with relationship health.
We know that there are plenty of people who say that they want couples counseling. We don't know yet if people will stick with it. We don't know yet how that will go online at scale. And that that would be an example of this is an open question that we're excited to explore.

And I guess the last way you can do it is to say something about how, when we started the organization, we actually made a relationship health mistake, and here's now how we're dealing with it.

And that only further reinforced for us the need for this third party. Any reactions to those?

[00:17:57] Jessica Holton:
Yeah, two reactions. My first reaction is, I feel relieved to hear that I can, in pitches, admit that we don't know everything. And I didn't realize until just now how much pressure there was to feel like we have everything figured out and we have this plan and it's going to be really successful because there's a lot that we don't know yet. The second thing is it dawned on me, as you were saying this, like we were emailing you to be an advisor and to get your advice. And of course asking a question or showing where we have gaps is the best way to show you that we know that you would add so much value.

[00:18:42] Adam Grant:
Okay. I have to ask, do you want to try again your pitch again? I was afraid. You would ask me that[00:18:50]

[00:18:50] Jessica Holton:
I was afraid you would ask me that. [Laughter]

As you know, we have seen over the past several years that couples increasingly are turning to couples therapy proactively to invest in their relationship. And yet couples therapy today isn't serving their needs the right way. It's antiquated. It's hard to get started. It's expensive and largely inaccessible to most people in the U S over the past year. Adam, Liz, Tyler and I, and our team, have piloted several different approaches to couples therapy. And what we found is that this hybrid approach to couples therapy and relationship health incorporating both the magic of a therapist relationship with their couple, and the power of technology and content, enables us to provide couples with proactive relationship health at any life stage in an effective and truly transformational way.
Our model also helps alleviate the therapist capacity problem in the US by amplifying the therapist efforts and making their relationship with their couples more effective. And we just closed our seed round. We're launching in April of this year, and we're at an incredibly special time where we could really value Adam Grant's input on the research side of our business, where as you know, we have not developed out to date. Thanks.

[00:20:21] Adam Grant:
Whew. That was good.

[00:20:25] Jessica Holton:
Whew. I was nervous.


[00:20:28] Adam Grant:
So good, in fact, that I’m now pitching her to take me on as an investor and advisor.

If you only have one shot to give your elevator pitch, it helps to lead with the problem before the solution, focus more on signaling preparedness than passion, and show receptivity along with confidence.

But what if you’re pitching as part of an ongoing interaction, like you want your boss to agree to a new project, or your mentor to co author an article with you?

If you have a whole meeting, instead of a cold email, how do you get your ideas heard?

And if they get rejected, how do you revive them?

More on that, after the break.


[00:21:53] Franklin Leonard:
I was working for Leonardo Di Caprio's film and television production company as a junior executive and my job was to find great screenplays.

[00:22:01] Adam Grant:
When Franklin Leonard was starting off his film production career, he read hundreds of pitches for the next Hollywood hit.

[00:22:09] Franklin Leonard:
And most of the things that I was reading were not great. And around that time, I got an incoming phone call from a manager, I believe who was pitching me on a movie. It would have been Leonardo DiCaprio. I think he was, he's an easy oil industry lobbyist. And then he discovers that there is a long dormant though now active volcano in the Atlantic and a storm is going to pass over that volcano. The volcano is going to launch like toxic fumes into the air and this giant storm would destroy the entire Eastern seaboard. I remember asking the manager, like, are you pitching me Leo versus the toxic Superstorm? Right. And I remember him saying, well, when you pitch it like that, it sounds ridiculous. And I think I read maybe 30 pages and I was like, yeah, this is as bad as I thought it was.

[00:22:52] Adam Grant:
But Franklin also read some exceptionally good screenplays that never saw the light of day.

Eventually, he decided to email a bunch of Hollywood insiders, asking: what’s your favorite unproduced screenplay?

Then he circulated the list of their top picks.

That’s when he founded The Black List. And for the past 17 years, it’s become an annual list of Hollywood's uncut gems. Sometimes literally.

Franklin has made a huge mark on the industry. The films he’s spotlighted have been nominated for more than 275 Oscars and won over 50. Including 4 of the last 13 best pictures and 10 of the last 26 best screenplays.

[00:23:38] Franklin Leonard:
Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Promising Young Woman, the year before Jojo Rabbit, Argo, and Spotlight.

[00:23:44] Adam Grant:
Today, The Black List also serves as an online marketplace where writers can get feedback -- and get discovered.

So Franklin has deep expertise in what it takes to make a successful pitch.

Especially when that pitch is made in dialogue with other people.

And even when that pitch takes place over time… sometimes a lot of time… sometimes over, and over, and over again.

[00:24:10] Franklin Leonard:
There are bad pitches and there are good pitches for every idea on some fundamental level. Every time you pitch that as a new data gathering operation, about how effective those pitches are, you will learn, what people respond to, what people don't respond to, and the pitch should be constantly retooled to be better.

[00:24:28] Adam Grant:
Unlike a cold email for an investment, a Hollywood pitch meeting is not a one-way street. It’s a two-way conversation.

[00:24:36] Franklin Leonard:
I think people often fail to consider their audience. It's really important that, you know, if you have something like your audience has a particular set of interests, background experiences, exposure, and it's critical to be able to identify what those are and tell your tailor the story that you're telling to them.

[00:24:52] Adam Grant:
No matter what industry you are in…what type of team or project you are working on…when you pitch an idea, think about it like a story. It needs a protagonist, a confrontation, and a resolution.

I actually did that for this show.


Once upon a time, there was a social scientist who wanted to make work not suck. After writing some books, he started getting invited onto a lot of stages. Soon he was spending more time sharing things he already knew than discovering things he didn’t. It dawned on him that he needed a podcast to turn the tables.


[00:25:33] Adam Grant:
Research identifies a couple ways to tailor your story to the audience. One is to make your unfamiliar idea familiar by using analogies.

Novel ideas often seem abstract and impractical. An analogy can make them feel more concrete and feasible. In tech, many investors didn’t get Airbnb until it was described as “eBay for homes.” In Hollywood, Titanic made a lot more sense to studios when it was presented as “Romeo & Juliet on a sinking ship.” Although I still don’t get why there wasn’t room for Leo on that raft!

Franklin has found analogies helpful when explaining his own vision for The Black List.

[00:26:17] Franklin Leonard:
You're trying to communicate a series of ideas to another person. So if I say, “Google for screenplays” if you know what a screenplay is, great. If you know what Google is great. You can probably put those things together and understand what I mean. Now, if you don't know what Google is, that's not an effective analogy because then I then have to explain again what that thing is, but it's ultimately about efficiency. You want those analogies to be specific and, and evocative.

Like, I've used the analogy of like imagine trying to put together the Lakers roster, but only from people that Jerry Buss personally knows, or the people that he knows personally knows, right? You're not going to win a championship, you're probably not going to win a game and you may not even score because other teams are out there looking for the next Giannis Antetokounmpo , and that's what Hollywood should be doing.

We should be looking for the best storytellers and writers from around the world, and then bringing them into the system so that we can all profit together. And admittedly, I will also tweak that depending on who I'm talking to, if I'm speaking to someone who's European or sort of not American, frankly, I will more often than not use soccer, which is sort of my sport of choice, but being an LA Lakers is perfect.

I will also tweak it to Knicks if it's a New York person.

[00:27:30] Adam Grant:
Another strategy is to think of yourself as a pitcher–you’re tossing a ball to a catcher, and you want them to throw it back.

When that doesn’t happen, things go wrong.

Research shows that when screenwriters are handed ideas late in the process, their films end up being less creative and coherent. They don’t feel a sense of ownership over them.

When they have a hand in developing the idea, they become motivated to invest in it. It becomes theirs.

One of my favorite examples of that comes from Apple. When the team finally got Steve Jobs interested in making a phone, it wasn’t a full-blown pitch.

It was a half-baked idea they tossed over that he could catch and toss back.

They said, “Yeah, the smartphones for the pocket protector crowd are clunky, but how beautiful would they be if Apple made one?

[00:28:25] Franklin Leonard:
More often than not whoever you're pitching, you're pitching them. Not only on, Hey, this movie is going to be great, but it's like, we're going to work on this together for a long time. And so when I think about the notion of making the audience a partner in the story that you're telling. And for me, it's really, again, these are just sort of the fundamentals of rapport building in any conversation, right?

[00:28:48] Adam Grant:
I love the way you described rapport building, as you know, really giving the other person a chance to see what it's like to work with you, and also to feel like a partner in the project.

[00:28:56] Franklin Leonard:
I would go so far as to say it's critically important that any pitch ultimately end up being a conversation because whatever story you're telling–and look, maybe you have the most obvious story of all time, and all you have to do is make the pitch and the person's going to be like, where do I send my check–I haven't seen a lot of those conversations happening.

[00:29:13] Adam Grant:
Bringing an analogy and inviting the other person to build on the idea can increase the odds of acceptance. But many great ideas still get rejected.

There’s no need to feel defeated. There are strategies to revive your pitch.

In a recent study, researchers tracked over 200 ideas at a healthcare organization…

[00:29:36] Pat Satterstrom:
What we found was that a quarter of rejected ideas still made it to implementation.

[00:29:42] Adam Grant:
Pat Satterstrom is a management expert at NYU, and she led a research team that spent nearly three years studying teams in clinics.

[00:29:51] Pat Satterstrom:
These seem like great places to understand how people who didn't have as much power typically in the clinic like the front desk employees would have an opportunity to share ideas and really try and understand how ideas made it or didn't make it to implementation over time.

It wasn't fast though. Sometimes it took 48, 56 weeks to get there, but they did eventually. And what was interesting is that sometimes the person who initially brought it up was no longer there. They'd already quit in frustration, but the idea lived on because it was picked up by others who heard it.

[00:30:30] Adam Grant:
Through this process, Pat’s team identified different techniques that people used when pitching an idea.
And the strategies that worked in healthcare mirror what Franklin Leonard has seen succeed in Hollywood...

[00:30:42] Franklin Leonard:
The thing about reviving pitches, there's probably. Three routes to doing so the first is reconception you take what you had before and you reconceive it into something that seems at least a little bit different, and then you take it back out. And people are like, oh, this version I'm interested in. Right.

Succession would fall in that category. So succession was a script written by Jesse Armstrong was a feature script about Rupert Murdoch gathering his children, for his birthday to basically decide who he was going to give the company to, and, you know, people were fascinated by it, but no one was going to make that movie. But what Jesse did was go back to the drawing board and said, well, what if it's not Rupert Murdoch? What if it was a fictional person and fictional kids and what if it was a television show and obviously HBO bought it. And it's one of the best written shows I've ever seen.

Oftentimes part of the reason why pitches get passed on is that they're not workable as they're pitched. It doesn't mean that the pitch is dead or that the thing that you're trying to do is dead. It means that you probably need to do it a little bit differently.


[00:31:47] Pat Satterstrom:
It’s a bit about re-imagining the idea, but it's also about asking questions to help people think differently about the idea. So knowing what all the pushbacks were going to be, all the issues were going to be, um, and, developing, asking the about, you know, how this would work, why it would work.

[00:32:08] Adam Grant:

A second strategy is what Franklin calls recontextualization.

[00:32:14] Franklin Leonard:
Context changes. All of a sudden, Hollywood knows this kind of movie works and they didn't have that information a year ago. When the hunger games manuscript went out, I remember reading the book in manuscript form and being told that female-driven action doesn't work and that it was too violent.

Coincidental to me that Wonder Woman happened shortly thereafter, right? Because it's like, oh, you can make the female-driven action movie and you can invest a lot of money in it. And there's a lot of money to be made. Right? All of a sudden the industry now had information that said, wait a minute, if you, if you make these movies, well, you make a lot of money. Enter Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, enter Captain Marvel, enter any number of other female-driven action movies that have come about as a result of that. And that is because the industry now said, oh, wait a second. We have new information and we need to change our behavior.

[00:33:04] Adam Grant:
With this new information, you are showing that what seemed impractical yesterday is practical today.

[00:33:11] Pat Satterstrom:
Yeah, it is. It is. It's showing that once was deemed unfeasible all of a sudden is actually doable. That's a huge kind of paradigm shift for people you could ask yourself, can I think of a situation where I have seen this idea of work? Can I personally vouch for this idea of being feasible and important?

You could ask yourself, is there a small, low stakes test of this idea that I can do to bring back data? Because data and evidence becomes so important, from taking an idea that's disregarded to an idea that all of a sudden becomes feasible.

[00:33:48] Adam Grant:
And a third approach is amplification. Getting other people to vouch for the idea.

[00:33:54] Franklin Leonard:
I think that's what The Black List does for people, which is to say, okay, you pitched the screenplay, and they all passed. But what if now all of a sudden there's an announcement that a bunch of people love that script, right? It's going to make everybody else be like, wait a second, let me look. Let's just double back and see, see what I might've missed the first time.

[00:34:11] Pat Satterstrom:
That's definitely this idea of amplifying and legitimizing showing that it, people who care about it, people who are important, but also just showing that this is something that has credibility to it, um, by doing a small experiment or in this case, collecting of some evidence.

[00:34:31] Adam Grant:
As I've been thinking about amplification in particular as a strategy is. It seems like a lot of people hesitate to amplify other's ideas’, especially after they've been rejected because the thought is, well, I don't want to stick my neck out. If that person already got shot down, this is a risk to my career.

And yet I recently read that, um, AMJ that Kristen Bain led showing that amplifying other people's ideas. It doesn't just help them get heard. It also makes you look good.

[00:34:54] Pat Satterstrom:
It does it, does. It makes you seem like a team player. It makes you seem like you were paying attention and it makes you. No sound caring and concerned for others because this is not about me. And what benefits mean. This is me thinking about the team, thinking about the organization and have other people see it framed that way. It actually reduces the risk quite a bit to you personally. And it means that, you know, other people are grateful that you remembered what they said. And especially if you can bring it up at a different time with a different problem or a different opportunity where the fit is better. That's an extremely important skills that teams can cultivate.

[00:35:41] Adam Grant:
Pitches can feel threatening. Your ideas– and your ego– are on the line.

But it’s worth remembering that when you make a pitch, there’s usually someone out there rooting for you to succeed.

When you apply for a job, there are interviewers hoping that you’re a superstar.

When you propose a small project, there are leaders wanting it to be a big hit.

When you pitch a startup, there are investors praying that you’re the next Steve Jobs.

And when you pitch your first film, there are studios crossing their fingers that you’re the next Ava DuVernay.

[00:36:19] Franklin Leonard:

Like at the end of the day, the person that you're pitching to is also a human being and as human concerns and probably wants you to succeed, they want you to pitch them the best idea they've ever heard because you don't like, no one goes into it being like, I hope this is terrible, right?

You're going to a receptive room in the sense that like everybody is hoping to walk down to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning and unwrap the best gift ever.

Everybody's hoping for it. So give them the best gift they've ever gotten. Tell them a story about a problem that you're going to solve a story that you're going to tell that they can be excited about and that they know that other people can be excited about too.


Next time on WorkLife…

GUEST: The way that perfectionists are built, makes us very sensitive and vulnerable to those setbacks and failures, which occur all the time and of course that creates a lot of worry and stops us. Taking risks stops, just pushing ourselves forward.

ADAM GRANT: How perfectionism holds us back, and how to overcome it.

WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant. The show is produced by TED with Transmitter Media. Our team includes Colin Helms, Gretta Cohn, Dan O’Donnell, JoAnn DeLuna, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Banban Cheng, and Anna Phelan. This episode was produced by Constanza Gallardo. Our show is mixed by Ben Chesneau. Our fact checker is Paul Durbin. Original music by Hansdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown. Ad stories produced by Pineapple Street Studios.

Special thanks to our sponsors: LinkedIn, Morgan Stanley, ServiceNow, and UKG.

For their research, gratitude to Colin Camerer on the curse of knowledge, Xiao-Ping Chen and colleagues on preparedness over passion, Lin Jiang and colleagues on too much joy, Tiziana Casciaroand colleagues on likeability, Alison Fragale on the power of powerless speech, my coauthor Constantinos Coutifaris on sharing your shortcomings, Mohammed Hussein and colleagues on receptivity in persuasion, Dana Kanze and colleague on asking women not to lose, Denise Falchetti and colleagues on framing novel ideas, Justin Berg and Alisa Yu on getting the picture too late, Kristen Bain and colleagues on amplifying voice, and Pat Satterstrom’s coauthors Michaela Kerrisay and Julia DiBenigno on voice cultivation.