Lessons in bravery: your idea won’t change the world if you don’t share it
People have been turning ideas into reality since the very first human existed. It’s what we do. Create and evolve. Today, humanity thrives because of a myriad of ideas that were once encased in a person’s mind. Until they took action and shared. Yet for many of us, taking action and sharing our ideas is one of the hardest things we can do. At the heart of inaction, you nearly always find fear and I learned a lot about mine recently when I set up Get You Heard, a not-for-profit delivering communications training for 16 to 24 year olds.
Until I started Get You Heard, my charitable track record was a dozen cups of tea with old ladies (my school forced me) and a few charity runs (I wanted to get fit). Setting up a not-for-profit was to be frank, a bit out of character. What I learned enriched me enormously and surprised me. I’m not just a better person for it, I’m a better professional and my clients and colleagues are benefitting.
Here’s what I learned about myself when I faced my fears and shared my idea:
1. Supporting other people’s ideas appears to be much easier than sharing your own. When actually, it’s just a habit you’ve got into, like brushing your teeth.
I work as the Commercial Director at Thwaites Communications. Our clients are entrepreneurial people and organisations, mainly in emerging technologies, who are experts at turning ideas into reality. We help them share those ideas, products and services in an accessible way. We build markets and support for our clients, using the tools of communication. I love what we do and the difference we make, working collectively with clients and stakeholders all over the world. I can talk passionately for hours about our clients, yet I couldn’t talk about Get You Heard at the start.
I’ve come across many organisations who claim to invest in ideas and embrace failure because of the valuable learning that always springs from it. But when people aren’t sharing ideas, fear is winning over good intentions. Success in business is based on the habits of your people, so pay attention.
2. As Tony Robbins says ‘complexity is the enemy of execution’, you don’t need to know everything to share your idea. Just take action and co-create.
I was over-analysing situations, disappearing into my head and dissecting doubts and ‘what ifs’, and that made me not take action. I had so much that I hadn’t worked out with Get You Heard that I felt unable to talk about it and ask for help. So it stayed an idea trapped in my head. This delayed the progress of Get You Heard and I later learned about the joys of co-creation.
Unravelling complexity is vital in business and hard to do alone. Share your idea with a trusted advisor. Work together to answer your audience’s never-ending question “What’s in it for me?” This is something we practice daily at Thwaites and always aim to bring to our client work.
3. People love to share their experiences and knowledge – if you ask them. Build your team!
People like being helpful. You just need to give them the opportunity to help. The first person I spoke to about Get You Heard loved my idea. Their reaction was so generous that I felt shocked, relieved, and I think I went through a zillion emotions in one conversation. Every single person since then, including our CEO Emma Thwaites, has been incredibly supportive.
Sharing an idea creates a possibility to build a team – a new grouping of individuals, informally or formally supporting each other – and people love to feel valued. That’s when they do their best. At Thwaites, we build support for our clients by sharing their ideas in the right places.
Back in December 2012, we helped the inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and AI expert Sir Nigel Shadbolt to launch the Open Data Institute (ODI). They, and the ODI founding team were a small group of people on a big mission – to address today’s global challenges using the web of data. We’ve been with ODI on every step of their journey, communicating their ideas. To date, they have worked with more than 50 startups solving problems with data. When the Facebook Analytica scandal broke, Radio 4’s Today programme wanted ODI CEO Jeni Tennison’s view and the organisation has 47,000 influential followers on Twitter.
4. Why wait to do something perfectly “someday?” Why not start today and do it imperfectly and see what results you start getting? Anything worth doing is worth doing POORLY!
The first time you do something, you always learn from that experience and next time you do it better. Perfectionism seems to be the disease of the modern world that we all catch at some point and it paralyses us. I realised that a combination of fear of failure and a desire to “look good” had prevented me from sharing my ideas so many times in the past.
Protect your business from the enemy of perfectionism. Lead by example and encourage colleagues to speak up and share their ideas. Everyone benefits from the freedom of self-expression. Don’t let them live a “small life” in a straight jacket of their own making.
Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) hired us to do just that, as the new organisation was about to rapidly grow from one member of staff (our client, the Interim CEO) to 150. We worked with the ESC for nearly three years to encourage staff and stakeholders to share their ideas and co-create solutions to the emerging challenges. We used a range of internal communications tools, from workshops to establishing online forums, to help establish a cohesive culture in the face of massive change.
5. Celebrate, celebrate and celebrate again.
By celebrating every time you face your fear and act, you strengthen a neural pathway in your brain that communicates “we enjoy this” and makes taking the same action easier and easier.
Last Saturday we had our first Get You Heard free communications skills training event. I looked around the room at the young people ready to learn and the trainers, coaches and volunteers eager to help. My daydream, from a few months earlier, had become reality and I felt euphoric. All the young people rated the training as excellent in their feedback forms and they left buzzing. That evening all the volunteers celebrated in the pub and I confess I got a bit teary-eyed.
So I learned the first step is always to share your idea. Take that action, say it out loud and ask for feedback. Embrace co-creation and learn from everybody you meet. Nothing is ever as scary as the first step. And the first step is never as scary as you think it will be. So take action in your businesses, share your ideas and encourage those you work with to. Great things will follow. Do let me know how you get on!
Find out more about Get You Heard here