Stand Out by Taking a Stand

By | May 26th, 2015|Startup Culture|

We live in a world in which putting your head down and working hard is no longer enough. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, professional, academic or politician, if you want to succeed you need to get noticed. You need to make a name for yourself.

Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following by Dorie Clark provides a step-by-step approach to getting that notice.

One way to make a name for yourself is to have a “breakthrough idea”: one that advances the discourse around what’s possible on a topic of interest to you. By diving into the topic, reading and learning everything you can, you can begin to see where the holes are. And by bringing in your own unique experiences and insights, you can begin to create ideas to fill those holes.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a genius or even an innovator. You do need to be passionate about the topic. Sometimes, you’re breaking new ground, but sometimes it’s about repackaging what already exists. It may just be about seeing things differently or going against the current. No matter what your goal is, you need to shake things up and change the status quo. You can do this by:

  • Shedding light on a dark industry secret, as Diane Mulchany did. A senior fellow for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, she revealed a dirty secret about venture capital firms: They do not reveal to their clients the hefty fees they charge to manage a fund’s money.
  • Creating a framework, like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross did, by codifying the stages of grief.
  • Popularizing something that has gone unnoticed, as John Allen did with John Forester’s book Effective Cycling. Forester was known for being quirky and intolerant of others. It took Allen to mainstream Forester’s ideas.
  • Researching a topic and creating fresh insights. When Michael Waxenberg, an IT director for a financial services company, was in the market for an apartment on New York City’s Upper West Side, he started writing online reviews on StreetEasy. Over time, he started asking people to share hard data on sale prices, not just for the Upper West Side but other neighborhoods, too. His data caught the eye of a realtor, who offered him a job. Waxenberg got his real estate license. Now he has a new career and is the go-to real estate guy for many people.

You also need to build a following around your ideas. Clark recommends that you share your ideas one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many. Examples of going one-to-one are sharing and refining your ideas with a trusted group of advisors. Ways of going one-to-many are creating content (blogs, podcasts, speeches, books, etc.). Finally, you can go many-to-many, which happens when people who believe in what you believe in become your ambassadors and spread your message far beyond what you could ever do on your own.

When choosing the media to communicate your message, you need to align the medium with your goals and your target market. Ask yourself:

  • Whom do you want to reach and what media are they using?
  • What are your goals and which media will accomplish these the best?
  • What media will highlight your story well?

The intersection of all three is your sweet spot. One size does not fit all.

Oh, yes, another little bit of advice that Clark provides that I’ll share—don’t forget to give yourself down time so you can rejuvenate and keep those fresh ideas coming!