In the late 1890’s, the head of the United States Patent Office advocated closing his department for good, stating with full confidence that everything that could be invented had been. Which is why today America remains at the forefront of whalebone whittling technology; Nielsen Ratings show reading the Sears Roebuck catalog is the leading form of weekly entertainment (followed closely by watching either candles burn or relatives succumb to consumption); and scientists continue to make great strides in the hopes of one day curing the leading cause of death in our nation, accidental wheat scythe beheadings.
Truth is, ingenuity is rarely appreciated in its time, especially in business. In fact, I am practically brimming over with great ideas, even a few that do not involve elaborate revenge fantasies or sure-fire schemes to win handsomely at roulette. Yet for some inexplicable reason the following brilliant concepts have yet to see the light of day or get us past the receptionist desk at most corporate headquarters, small business offices or parents’ places of work:
• A house plant that actually thrives under routine neglect and the occasional arc of cat piss
• A sitcom about mismatched roommates, one a refined neat freak unaccustomed to squalor, the other an escaped Colobus monkey with a loaded handgun and steadily improving aim
• A microwaveable single-serving Hot Pocket dinner that does not end with the lonely, malnourished consumer crying over both a woeful financial status that would greatly concern friends and a pitiful social calendar that would greatly bemuse Capuchin nuns
So why are we all now not living in a world replete with lush albeit less-than-favorably aromatic ferns, meals that actually promote a positive self-image and program after program featuring homicidal primates? Is it because I can’t tell the difference between a fully realized concept and a half-assed notion borne out of momentary whimsy? Could it be because the stupid Colobus monkey kept shooting himself instead? Does it have something to do with the fact that whatever discretionary income I did manage to cobble together to fund one of my ideas instead went to a Hot Pocket dinner that, alas, did indeed conclude with copious sobbing and self-recrimination?
No! It’s because today’s so-called business executives and venture capitalists are accustomed to commonplace ideas, warily eyeing any new concept or monkey show with great suspicion, much like the Aztecs could not conceive of using an inflated ball for their soccer matches when a human head clearly worked so well. But while I have enjoyed nothing even remotely resembling success, personal vindication or a simple patronizing pat on the back, perhaps the following pointers will help you sell your million-dollar idea. After all, you probably possess far more charisma, not to mention the ability to conclude a meeting with potential investors without shouting such retorts as, “Well, how about I shove the proposal up your ass sideways?! Will that get my point across?!”
• Think about your audience: Do they appreciate directness? Do they respond well to threats? Have they committed any particularly egregious act, perhaps on film, that could be used as a persuasive tool? Business is all about people. The more you know your audience, the more likely you will have them all nodding nervously in agreement.
• Identify the underlying message you wish to get across: All too often good ideas are lost in a sea of pointless asides, needless charts and nonessential yet oddly mesmerizing stammering fits. Know precisely what it is you are ultimately trying to communicate to your audience, such as “I want to be loved,” “Please someone give me approval” and “I’m scared and could really use a hug.”
• Mention a common experience that proves your point: Stand-up comics call this the “You ever notice?” gambit, as in “You ever notice how this company has been flushed down the crapper more times than dead goldfish? You ever notice how many of the bottom-feeding, ass-dragging, chromosome-dangling retards responsible for tossing it down the toilet are in this room right now? Well let’s do something about that…and them.”
And should all else fail, it never hurts to open with a joke, like “This company is a joke.” You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll earn the attention of everyone in the room.