Not the elephant no one will talk about even though its presence is ginormous. This is the elephant that a stakeholder won’t stop talking about.
And it’s not an idiom. It’s an actual elephant (or fireworks display or ice sculpture). In the room. Or ballroom, as the case may be.
I’m talking about the idea that gets put on the table that is ghastly wrong. Be it elephant or otherwise.
How do you handle this?
When was the last time throwing “your idea really sucks” on the table actually got you anywhere?
My take on this? It’s threefold.
1. Educate. Opinions and personal tastes aside, explain actual reasons—be they of the technology, production or creative ilk (all of which boil down to budget)—why this elephant may not, er, fly.
*Technology: It is supremely hard to mic an elephant and there is most often interference.
*Production: The logistics of feeding and walking the elephant will require four additional staff onsite and probable overtime.
*Creative: Elephant doesn’t really go with either the meeting’s nor brand’s color scheme.
2. Contribute. The only thing worse than shutting down someone else’s idea is shutting it down and then walking out of the room. If you don’t like an idea, even if it’s as bad as an elephant, offer something else. Something that matches the intent of the elephant (in other words: find a solution that is elephant-less).
3. Make it work. If you’ve tried 1 and 2, and the stakeholder is still convinced that an elephant is the only answer, know that you’ve done what you could. All of the possible sticking points have been identified. So now move forward. Without complaint. Without refreshing the ‘issues’ every hour on the hour.
Take that elephant, walk into that room and make it sing! Or something.