Posted on 12/10/2012 by Eric Swanson in the Learnings Blog
Lately I’ve been thinking about the power of an idea. How do good ideas get traction or take flight. Why is it that some ideas are “sticky” while other seemingly brilliant ideas flounder? Have you ever had a great idea but felt frustrated that it really didn’t take flight? Archimedes was born in Cicely in the year 287 BC. He was a brilliant mathematician, physicist, and inventor who used his inventions of pulleys and catapults to help the Greeks prevail in battle, and his equation to find the radius of a sphere to stump geometry students throughout the ages. It is he who said, “If you give me a lever and a place to stand, I can move the world.” His two variables, the length of the lever along with a place to stand, still serve us well on what it takes to move the world. Let’s start with the “lever” and used an acrostic to unpack the power of a lever.
Life-changing idea or innovation—What life-changing idea do you have, that if implemented or applied would make a difference in the lives of people? The bigger the idea…the longer your lever.
Ethos—A hundred years before Archimedes was busy drawing circles and triangles, Aristotle was thinking about the elements of effective communication. Ethos is a person’s character…a person’s gravitas or trustworthiness. Ethos answers the question, “Why should I trust you?” Ethos speaks to a person’s credibility that comes from track record and expertise. Interestingly a powerful idea is often bigger than the person who carries the idea. Like the rain, God seems to distribute good ideas to both the good and bad. Think of who invented the Volkswagen. Very bad person…very great idea. So if you can…be a good person. Generally speaking, the greater your ethos…the longer your lever.
Vision—What would the world look like if people adopted your life-changing idea? A good vision is both emotionally appealing and executionally feasible. One test for a great vision is, that after hearing it, you find yourself saying, “Man I want to be a part of that.” The more compelling the vision…the longer your lever.
Evangelist—Following Guy Kawasaki’s advice: “Love the cause. ‘Evangelist’ isn't simply a job title. It's a way of life. It means that the evangelist totally loves the product and sees it as a way to bring the ‘good news.’ A love of the cause is the second most important determinant of the success of an evangelist—second only to the quality of the cause itself. No matter how great the person, if he doesn't love the cause, he cannot be a good evangelist for it. The more of your own Kool-Aid you’ve swallowed…the longer your lever.
Results—The reason you believe your idea can make a difference is because you’ve seen the benefits in your own life, the life of the church, among another people group, your uncle’s life. Results are the “proof of concept” that almost all people look for before they adopt the new thing. Results are seen in satisfied customers but most of all, how has this idea / innovation changed you? The more impressive the results…the longer your lever.
A Place to Stand
Ok, you’ve got a nice long lever but you still need a place to stand—a platform, if you really want to move the world.
A place to stand is your platform and a well-architected platform is critical to spreading ideas.
Physical Platforms. This is your pulpit or the stage from which you speak—your delivery mechanism to the world (or the 150 faithful people who show up every week to listen to what you have to say). When Ezra wanted to teach the ways of God to the Israelites, he had a physical platform constructed that allowed him to project his ideas. Abraham Lincoln had the Gettysburg Cemetery, Martin Luther King had the Lincoln Memorial. Good news though; today your influence is not limited to your physical platform
Organizational Platform. An organizational platform allows you to leverage the good will and relational capital of your co-laborers and those who have gone before. I’ve always thought that the organization is bigger than the person. I’ve been blessed to work for several years with great organizations—25 years with Cru, 3 years with Promise-Keepers, 14 years with Tango, and 12 years with Leadership Network (Most of these jobs overlap). I’ve always found that each one of these organizations is way bigger than I and being part of great organizations is what has opened doors that otherwise would be locked. When I introduce myself (Caution: I am about to name drop—women and children please look away) to Rick Warren, Erwin McManus, or Andy Stanley and say “I’m with Leadership Network,” they smile back, not because of me but because of the associate memories they have of Leadership Network.
Martin Luther reportedly said, “Printing is God’s highest act of grace.” Printing changes everything! Authors write to an audience they’ll never meet. Luther understood the power of print. After translating the Bible into the German language said, “It matters not if I’m sleeping or having a beer in a pub in Wittenberg, the Word of God does its work.” If you can write…if you can be published…you have a big platform.
Digital Platforms. Digital platforms democratize ideas. It allows those who may never be published through traditional media to move the world. An open digital platform allows people to find you, come to you, and listen to your ideas via your blogposts, sermons, videos, etc. A great digital platform allows a globally obscure South Korean rapper, Psy, to show off his “Gangnum Style” to nearly one billion people. Who knew we’d like it so much! Digital platforms allow you to identify and connect with people who want to be passionate about what you are proposing. Seth Godin talks and writes of creating a movement by appealing to the small group of people who are ready to be moved by your idea. This is what the “Arab Spring” was about…a powerful idea being spread via text, photo and video—far beyond what an organization and publishing alone could do.
What other platforms can you think of that serve as “a place to stand?”
How do you use the platforms on which to stand to change the world?
In March, 2013, I’m forming my fourth Global Connections Leadership Community. If you are thinking of how to “move the world,” you may find this Leadership Community a great place on which to stand and develop your LEVER. To watch an informative animation click http://bit.ly/RuZbOq