In-house Issues: In-house Inception


In the movie “Inception”, mind-game mercenaries enter other people’s psyches through their dreams with the aid of a briefcase-sized brain-linking device (wish I had one of them at work). Sometimes these agents go in to get information, other times to get the subject to behave in a certain way when they awake.


It’s the second purpose that intrigues me. The dream invaders can’t just tell the subject to do something – they have to plant the coercive idea in a way that it resonates emotionally with their victim so they’ll act on the hypnotic-like suggestion.

This scenario holds true for in-house designers every day when we attempt to sell a design concept, ask for more resources or try to convince a peer to help us with a project we’re working on. It would be oh so wonderful to just tell the person to do what we need them to do – but there’s something about the way we’re wired as human beings that has us immediately put up our guard when others ask something of us.

So the key is to take the same approach that the dream invaders do in “Inception”. Plant an idea in another’s psyche, help them see what’s in it for them and finesse the conversation so that they have some ownership of the idea and even come to believe it was theirs in the first place.

It’s easy to resist and resent having to interact with others in this way, but in the politically charged corporate environment, it’s effective and necessary.


2 thoughts on “In-house Issues: In-house Inception

  1. Bob Calvano

    Hey Andy,
    This is a great tactic and I try to use it as often as possible. They key is to start with listening. Often clients come to in-house departments with “orders” that sound like “I need a poster”. They may need a poster, but I find that there is always room for “inception”. For me, the form that the inception takes on is often disguised as suggestion. “Sure we can give you a poster but what if…and how about…or why not” I think you get the idea. The client is often excited to go back to their boss and offer up these suggestions as their own, and that’s fine with me, because I know we have planted the idea. Sometimes the results are fantastic, and this type of inception positions the team as more of a strategic partner vs. order taker. And if you are a charge back organization, you’ve just created more billable hours. Everyone is happy 🙂

  2. Helen

    I’d second Bob’s ‘listening’ skill and add two more: ‘pay attention to the emotional connection’ and ‘watch the body language’. People buy with money and with emotion. Unless, and until, they get excited about something, they won’t commit any amount of money. We can understand what people are thinking when we particularly look at their eyes and their hands. The converse is also true: listen (and watch) out for negative responses. One great way of honing these skills is to watch business people being interviewed – look out for the dissonance between what they say and what their eyes and hands are doing!