Make a difference. Challenge the status quo. Change the world.
It's graduation season, and commencement speakers at podiums across the country are urging graduates to use their energy and knowledge to improve their communities.
"Make your city and your world 'greater, better and more beautiful.'"
"[H]ave the courage to stand up and speak up and find a way to get in the way" when you see something that's not fair.
"[G]o out and do really interesting things. Important things."
Graduation speakers can inspire and make us think.
But how to move from inspiration to action? From thinking about it to making it happen?
I've always believed one person can change the world. As I describe here, I've seen it happen - more than once.
Still, change can be excruciatingly hard to achieve - it may be attacked by entrenched interests. Dismissed as unworkable. Unrealistic. Naive.
And the more dramatic the change, the more it may be resisted.
So, what to do?
Over the course of my career so far - advising executives as a consultant and strategist in the private sector, working on Capitol Hill, co-founding and serving as Board Chairman of a non-profit - I've developed a roadmap for taking an issue from what I call "idea to impact."
It’s a formula for making change.
- Persuading corporate executives to use a new technology to protect their brand online
- Pushing a plan to overhaul the way the federal government secures billions of pounds of air cargo carried on passenger planes every year or
- Launching a new tutoring and mentoring program for disadvantaged students in Washington, DC
I've created a methodology that can help guide your efforts to change the status quo and reach your goal.
It's not a magic recipe or some kind of Jedi Mind Trick
And there are surely other ways to bring about change (revolution, anyone?)
But in my experience, applying this blueprint can help you build durable, substantial change, regardless of the reform you want to achieve.
It's my Idea to Impact System TM, and I'm going to share it with you.
There are 6 parts:
1. The Policy - What's the issue you want to advance?
- Master ALL the details
- Be able to accurately and confidently respond to each question about what you're trying to do
- Clearly explain why your policy change is needed and what makes it better than other options
2. The Pitch - How are you going to talk about your issue and describe what it does?
- Distill the policy details in a way that’s understandable and persuasive to listeners
- Tailor your message to match the particulars of different audiences
- Take a look at our FREE Messaging Toolkit “Make Your Message Stand Out Now: 4 Keys to Effective Messaging” that I put together to help you develop the right words to move your priorities forward. Just enter your name and email address and download it at no cost.
3. The Politics - Who supports what you want to do? Who opposes and why?
- Know the pros and cons of your idea by heart and be able to simply and plainly express them
- Build a coalition of credible supporters to back your idea
- Coordinate your coalition to help amplify your efforts
4. The Process - What are the steps for moving your idea forward?
- Understand the specific legislative process (if your change requires a new law or amendment)
- Know the chain of command for considering your proposal (if your change is to corporate policy)
Note: there's always a formal process and an "informal" process (more on that later)
5. The People - Who are the actual humans responsible at each step of the process (the “deciders”)?
- Be aware of their perspective or attitude about your idea
- Figure our how you may be able to influence them
- Determine if there’s anything in their personal history that could make them more receptive
- Identify who they respect and listen to
- Uncover and use any key relationships you can tap into
6. The Press - Would it help to publicize your efforts?
- Consider writing an op-ed
- Send a letter to the editor
- Think about pitching your idea to a reporter
- Start a social media campaign, if appropriate
- Use the pitch messaging you developed whenever you talk to the press or anyone else you’re trying to persuade
Even if you diligently follow my Idea to Impact System TM, you still may have to compromise along the way.
Or adjust your idea.
Or choose between incremental change and abandoning your idea altogether (Hint: Take half a loaf now...and come back for the second half later.)
But remember that change is hard, and it can take time to reach your ultimate goal. Don't get discouraged and good luck!
Have you been involved in an effort to accomplish significant change? Did I leave out anything that you’ve found useful? I welcome your feedback in the comments.