The following is question number 11 of Guy Kawasaki’s “The Stickiness Aptitude Test (SAT) and Ten Questions with Chip and Dan Heath” post that I was just reading. I thought I’d highlight it because it totally mirrors a lesson I learned this past week.

Question: What’s your advice to a product champion stuck in a large company who gets matrixed to death trying to implement your ideas?

Make people play on your turf by keeping things concrete. It is so much easier to bullshit with abstraction than with concrete examples. Don’t say, “I think we should devote more resources to evangelism among mid-market IT decision-makers.” Say, “Here’s a list of 500 IT decision-makers in the area around Salt Lake City. I want to invite them to a one-day conference on Sept 29. It will cost $60,000 to pull off. Who’s in?” Even if they disagree, it will be productive disagreement, anchored in reality.

The lesson is to take the initiative to develop a concrete example before trying to “sell” something — don’t argue in theory. Have you had one of those incredibly long work e-mail strings that didn’t accomplish anything? Well, I was a part of one recently and was given some fantastic advice (thanks David) as a result. Rather than argue about something that you THINK would work without developing a concrete example, do the work ahead of time to show an example of what you mean. It can save a lot of time and headache and lead to a productive conversation rather than a never-ending argument (or e-mail string).