It takes time, effort and a “unique” idea to go from busy worker bee to sought after thought leader. Dedicating time and energy to a cause can be easily organized, but how do you discover which idea to stand behind and speak up on?
You need to pull from your personal experiences and accomplishments, says Dorie Clark, renowned marketing strategist and author of Stand Out.
Q: You’ve talked about the importance of creating more “white space” in your life to increase creativity. What are your tips for selecting and filtering the plethora of content that social media and the web puts at our fingertips?
A: The web is never-ending, and it could easily suck hours out of your day. To limit your chances of falling into a black hole, some people use RescueTime, which tracks the time you spend on various websites or programs, and allows you to block access to certain sites (if you find yourself checking Facebook too often, for instance). I actually have a virtual assistant who helps me with Twitter. Every day, he places any personal messages (questions or messages requiring a response) into an Excel file for me, which I review once a day and type my responses into. Then, he’ll upload it the next day for me. It limits the real-time functionality of Twitter, but it does allow me to respond personally and efficiently, instead of checking it 20 times a day, like I used to.
Q: What ideas do you have for building your network with people who live on another continent (for example, Africa) that you do not know yet?
A: To build your network on another continent, I’d start with your existing contacts. You can search LinkedIn to see who they might know in Africa, and request introductions. That can be a good starting point, as these “warm leads” are likely to want to be helpful to you. If you’re involved with any professional associations or charitable organizations, there may be “sister chapters” in that location, and that’s another commonality you can leverage. The local American Chamber of Commerce might also be helpful. And you can start to follow interesting people from that country on Twitter; after a few exchanges, they may be pleased to get to know you. Good luck!
Q: When you are in the idea generation phase, how much should you be thinking about “Does this solve a problem?” and “Will people pay for this”?
A: When you’re in idea generation mode, don’t worry about external reception – just create. Think about what’s interesting, and what’s possible, and what hasn’t been tried before but could be cool. It’s later – before you start to invest time and resources into the idea – that you’ll want to vet it with your network, who can help you determine which of your ideas is the most likely to succeed, and will yield the greatest return (for you and for the people you serve). If you’re interested in how to develop your own breakthrough ideas, you can download my free 42-page Stand Out workbook.
Q: I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from others that my insights are helpful. Yet I can’t help feeling that my talent isn’t that unusual or unique because it comes easily to me. What should I do?
A: It’s often hard to appreciate our own abilities because we’re so used to them. Of course other people must be able to mediate a resolution between opposing parties, or play music by ear, or bring order to massively chaotic living spaces – right? But none of those are common skills, and if you possess them, no matter how natural they seem to you, it’s important to recognize that you have a special talent.
It’s human nature that we have trouble seeing ourselves as we are. As I describe in my book Stand Out, that’s why it’s so crucial to have a small group of trusted advisors around you – people you can turn to for honest advice and feedback. If they say you have a talent you should leverage, it’s time to listen to them.
Q: In many organizations, I’ve found that groupthink and top-down agendas are common. How should you react when insiders feel threatened by a new idea that you’ve developed?
A: It’s a compliment when establishment players start to get upset by your ideas – but, of course, it rarely feels like one. It can be extraordinarily stressful when power players, many of whom you might respect, take umbrage and start to push back against your initiative. You almost certainly didn’t mean to “declare war” on them – but now they’re fighting back as though you had. In the face of that venom, it’s important to do three things.
First, make 100 percent sure your ideas are solid. Vet them with trusted friends and colleagues whose opinion you respect. If you’re wrong, back off. But if you believe there truly is something to your idea, keep fighting.
Second, get results as quickly as possible. You’ll never be able to win a fight based on your opinion versus their opinion. Argue for a pilot test, so you can get real world results and use them to argue for broader adoption of your idea.
Third and finally, leverage the controversy. You didn’t ask for a fight. But now that you have one, don’t shy away. Instead, use the publicity generated by the fracas to draw attention to your idea. If it’s truly a good one, in time, it will win.