This post is part of a series that fleshes out The TUNING Toolkit – a toolkit that helps people move their ideas forward. The TUNING Toolkit has three parts: BELIEVE, CREATE, and ORGANIZE. In the last section, BELIEVE, we emerged with a well defined goal. We’ll carry that goal into the second section of the toolkit, CREATE.
PROBLEM: THE MYTH OF THE LONE GENIUS
There is a myth about creativity: the myth of the lone genius. To do creative work and work that changes the world, the myth goes, you have to be a visionary, a brilliant mind, one of a kind.
But when we take a closer look at “lone geniuses,” we discover that they have partners. This partner is sometimes a supportive spouse, or an operations partner, someone who’s good at finance or who writes compelling stories–sometimes a partner plays a combination of these rolls. So the myth is problematic. Creativity isn’t about being a lone genius. Creativity is about finding the partners we need to develop and launch our projects.
In addition to partners, these “lone geniuses” typically have communities. There are different types of members in a community and they each play different roles and engage at different levels of frequency and commitment.
The point here is that when we set out to develop and launch a project whose aim is to help other people, we need a community. When we work in a community, we get feedback on our ideas, we expand our network, and we find people who believe in what we believe in and who will help us make a positive impact in the world.
We call these partners and community members “stakeholders.” Understanding stakeholders helps us get clarity on how often to engage with them. This understanding starts with identifying all of the stakeholders, a process sometimes called “stakeholder mapping.”
To begin stakeholder mapping for our own projects, we need to list all the people that are or could be involved with your project and the roles they play. Note that the well-defined, high level goal we articulated in the last section of this toolkit will help us communicate clearly with stakeholders.
Family & Friends. It’s often beneficial to loop our family and friends into our goals. While we don’t need to share the day-to-day details, we do benefit from the support of people who love us.
Operations People. Sometimes “big-idea people” need to find partners who are talented at operations. “Operations people” keep the trains running on time. While on the surface operations management might seem boring, there’s quite a bit of art to it, so it’s important to value those people and their skills.
Story Tellers. Some founders have a hard time communicating what they do to the people they are trying to reach. Partnering with someone who is really good at story telling can help.
Suppliers. Sometimes the products we make rely heavily on the materials we need to make them. If I’m a juice maker, for example, then I rely heavily on produce farmers. The relationships we have with suppliers are very important.
Distributors or Retailers. Sometimes we are really good at understanding customers and making what they want, but not so good at selling it. This is where a distributor or retailer can come into play.
Mentors or Leaders. When we are doing something new, we need people with experience for guidance. This can be a mentor or simply some peers that are leading in a similar way that you are leading. Have a monthly breakfast, a meeting, or a walk. Check in.
Investors. There are different types of investors, investing at different scales and with different goals and motivations: there are micro grants, big grants, prize money, crowdfund supporters, banks, friends and family, private investors, etc. We must develop relationships with these people and understand why they want to invest.
Customers. “Customer” is a tricky word because, as with investors, there are a few different types. There are early adopters and early majority customers. There are users who aren’t paying customers. Think about a kid’s backpack, for example, the kid is the user, but the parent is the paying customer. It’s important to know the difference.
Advocates. Any of the community members listed here can be our advocates at different stages in our project. Treat them well. Make it easy for them to share your message, and ask them how you might return the favor.
DESIGN WITH OTHERS (summary)
I’ll say this again: when we set out to develop and launch a project whose aim is to help other people, we need a community. When we work in a community, we get feedback on our ideas, we expand our network, and we find people who believe in what we believe in and who will help us make a positive impact in the world.