Buy-in vs. commitment: is there a difference? And does it matter if there is?

As I was writing my most-recent post earlier this week, I started to type the word “buy-in” and paused for a moment because what I really meant was “commitment.” Are the two terms one and the same?

I know the two are often used interchangeably (I’m guilty), but I think there’s a difference. Am I wrong?

Let’s look at how they are both defined.

Here are a few definitions from across the web:

  • Acceptance of and willingness to actively support and participate in something (Merriam-Webster)
  • Support for an idea or plan (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)
  • The commitment of interested or affected parties to a decision (often called stakeholders) to ‘buy into’ the decision, that is, to agree to give it support, often by having been involved in its formulation (Wikipedia)

The following are some definitions of commitment.

  • A promise to give yourself, your money, your time, etc., to support or buy something (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)
  • The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc. (Oxford Dictionaries)
  • A pledge or promise; obligation (

I like the “6 Key Components of Commitment,” as outlined by Janssen Sports Leadership Center: solemn promise, full investment, willingness to sacrifice, long-term obligation, pact to persevere, and agreement to act.

These definitions get at what I was thinking about: that “buy-in” is more about agreeing to support something or accepting a decision or action as something you could be a part of. It doesn’t feel like it’s as strong as using “commitment,” which means to me that you’re all in, i.e., you’ve agreed to support it, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Perhaps the first step is gaining buy-in, getting people to agree that your cause is a worthy one, after which you hope they commit – not just themselves but also human, financial, and other resources – and take the cause from concept to reality.

What do you think? Is it just semantics? Is this a meaningful conversation to have?

The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed. -Martina Navratilova