The Importance of Clarity
Once you've distilled your idea, you must clearly express it. Here's how.
You have had that wonderful, indefinable moment of creation, the initial idea, and in that single moment, you have sensed your idea's utility and power. But this is not enough. Building a team, devising a strategy, planning how to monetize your innovation — sure, these will come later. For now, in the immediate aftermath of the arrival of inspiration, you must hold on to that idea and express it — first to yourself, and then to the world at large.
Become a force of nature
This concept of being a force of nature is one developed by my mentor, the author Barry Neil Kaufman. He outlines the steps we need to take to generate the energy to make the change we want to see in the world. Here are the five phases in Kaufman's force of nature methodology, each of which, in my view, may be subject to interference from opposition of various sorts that we must learn how to overcome.
- Clarity of purpose. Thomas Edison is perhaps the finest exemplar of the entrepreneur. Edison arrived at a well-founded conviction that he should pursue a specific idea about the mechanism for distributing power. Like him, we need to know why we're doing what we're doing. It's the strength of this conviction that will help us to resist any opposition that we might face and to overcome any problems that may arise. This conviction is essential for embarking with confidence on the adventure ahead.
- Building the conviction. The conviction will be all the stronger if there are many justifications for pursuing our chosen idea. We need to build a list of factors that support our conviction, to add to the impetus propelling us forward and give us even more energy for the successive stages of innovation. We will need to draw on them in defending ourselves against potential critics and doubters (and that often includes ourselves).
- Daring action. In Edison's case, the daring action was announcing his plans to the press and to potential investors before he had even trialed the feasibility of his idea. By doing this he instantly made himself accountable for following through on his plans. Interestingly, as a result of his announcement, gas shares went down and investors were keen to put up money, proving just how powerful this daring action was. Everyone will have a different daring action, but in many cases, it will entail a degree of accountability and risk. It will also build our energy for the journey to come, regardless of what we might face.
- Passion. Building the conviction behind your idea strengthens the rationale for it on logical and practical grounds, but you also need to have an emotional connection to it. I recently visited a friend who is a musician, but he's never sold any compositions or performed them publicly. He had me listen to a couple of his recordings, but the entire time he was saying, "Ah, I don't know if this is really ready. I'm not sure it's that good. It sounds a bit unfinished." Contrast this with how I feel about a children's book that I wrote for my son called Don't Cry, Learn, which is designed to foster a growth mindset. Whenever I look at my book, I say to myself, "Wow, what an amazing creation! This is fantastic!" The message is, of course, that if you don't love your creation, how can you expect anyone else to love it?
- Persistence. The final phase is persistence. This journey is accomplished by taking one step after another until you complete the cycle — and then you do another round. Passion fuels persistence and keeps you going when yet another round of testing has failed to deliver the result you were looking for.
Related: Remember, Persistence Pays Off
Clarity boosts collaboration
We know it's important for you to be clear about your idea and why you want to pursue it, but building clarity at this point is also a tool for moving on to the next phase of building a team and engaging with partners who can support the venture financially.
From the venture capitalist's perspective, there are a few factors that determine which entrepreneurs they will support: target market, track record, business plan, and of course, the motivation and determination the entrepreneur displays. To improve the likelihood of meeting a venture capitalist's criteria and achieving company success, the entrepreneur should align themselves and their company values with their own needs.
Once you understand why you want to build a specific company and can articulate this in your funding pitch, you'll attract like-minded people who share the same goal, and together you can create a culture that will benefit everyone. Having these clear company values will also speed up decision-making and enhance company-wide performance. Additionally, customers will reap the benefits from this alignment between your own needs, the market needs, and your company's values in the form of a superlative service experience.
Articulating your idea
Words are the main medium for expressing your idea, but don't underestimate how powerful a visual representation of it can be. The more you invest in the so-called "soft skills" of writing, storytelling and drawing, the easier it will be to convey your idea to the world. Skills such as public speaking and presenting your vision and values on-camera are of the utmost importance.
If you find expressing your idea to be difficult, get an expert to help you. I see many entrepreneurs who are scientists, but they can't set out their ideas properly because they don't know how to write. Of course, they can write, but they can't craft a compelling story. There are many gifted writers and designers out there who can do just that.
Making a pitch deck is a vital part of this expressing phase. People need to be able to see your vision clearly and gain a basic understanding of it. Even if some of the fine details are not yet clear to you, don't delay — clarity will come along the way. In the Edison example, he announced his intention of bringing light to the world, even though he hadn't yet had the idea of the light bulb as the mechanism. What he in fact announced was a whole system, with the exact device for delivery to the end user still to be finalized.
You don't need all the answers at this stage, because in the next stage you'll no longer be on your own; you'll have a team. This is the leap into the next phase — building the team — that many people don't understand.
You might think that this is where science and business diverge from art, except we know that Michelangelo, like many Renaissance artists, ran a studio in which apprentices would paint less demanding areas of the canvas. In our own time, artists such as Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor employ apprentices to create casts and manage many of the stages of their production of art. Teams are important.
For now, it's enough to have a really clear vision and a "why."
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