Today’s guest is Admiral James G. Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander, United States European Command.
How can the concepts articulated in writing by transformers/innovators get translated to action?
Obviously, to see a concept translated into action, it must be presented to a decision maker with time to analyze it and the authority to allocate resources to its fulfilment.
That is hard in any system, as there is tremendous competition for those resources.
Good ideas have to be short, to the point, and practical for a decision maker to want to allocate resources towards it.
They must also fit the perceived need for improvement (what’s broken?) in the eyes of the decision maker.
There is nothing complicated in this. It amounts to:
- Seeing a problem that needs correcting.
- Determining a reasonable solution.
- Packaging the solution, idea, or concept with a concrete proposal.
- Understanding that to see your ideas achieve traction, you have to be willing, in almost every instance, not to get all the credit for the concept.
That final point may seem counter-intuitive, of course. But think about it: in today’s connected, hyperactive, endless conversation no single idea goes from the mind of the creator to fruition unchanged. All ideas become part of what might be termed the “universal blog.” The ideas are pushed, pulled, torn apart, reassembled, and—hopefully—improved.
How an idea begins, of course, affects the journey it takes to action.
If you propose a concept on Twitter, you’re going to see blogs written from the Twitter conversation, followed by articles in journals, and eventually a memo on the desk of a decision maker that may be many levels removed from your position.
That’s fine—as long as you are willing not to have all the credit.
By taking this route, you are having others fill in the large conceptual gaps that are inherent in communicating via Twitter. Odds are, and if it matters to you, that concept will no longer be your exact idea by the time it gets to a decision maker.
Again, there is nothing wrong with this method, and many good concepts are fleshed out over Twitter on a daily basis; the discourse there is important and I enjoy following it very much.
On the other end of the spectrum, one can write a long-form piece for a prestigious journal. The vaunted status of such journals adds authority to the concept, but the concept still has to make its way through the bureaucracy. However, it is still the give and take amongst the staff that fleshes out ideas. But, the more idea that is there to work with, the better–as a greater amount of content has a higher chance of making it through a staff’s collaborative process.
Timing is nearly everything. I’m sure you have all read that one article that fits perfectly into your current world-view. Such articles are the ones that lead to action the quickest. But, timing can only be anticipated so much. A lot of timing is left to chance, and even if your timing isn’t perfect, being close may still be good enough.
Taking the resources required for your concept into consideration is important because it is in this criterion that what you’re doing either becomes idle supposition or the start of an earnest discourse. The relationship between the resources required and the difficulty in bringing a concept to action is directly proportional. Be sure to articulate your concepts with this in mind.
But, articulating concepts with all I have outlined still does not make certain that your idea will ever be implemented. In all likelihood, once some action is taken based upon a concept you introduced, what results will differ from what you envisioned.
You have to write while being mindful that your concept almost certainly will not ‘survive’ first contact with another mind. When the concept is reblogged, editorialized, retweeted and the like, your audience will focus in on different aspects of what you’ve written based on their own biases and experiences.
Above all else you have to have grit. You must be willing to take criticism and countervailing views in stride while you watch your precious idea be changed—and hopefully improved—on its journey to action. Not for the faint of heart: but worth the voyage.