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Share your ideas sooner, not later

January 25th, 2008

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Listen: Share your ideas sooner, not later

Career Opportunities podcast logoAs a writer, it is always distressing when you have a great idea and then see that someone else has written an article about the exact same topic, usually only days before you get around to it. It happens all the time and it only makes sense, considering the number of people in the world. Surely someone else has had similar thoughts about your topic. They simply wrote them down first.

There is an interesting analogy in our career life, too, though. We can have a great idea, but if we don’t take the step of telling someone about it, someone else may end up getting all the credit. (it’s so prominent an idea it’s the sub-plot in the internet pilot, Quarterlife!) More importantly, this other person has created an opportunity that should have been yours. This opportunity could lead to great things in their career. Keeping that in mind, as you move through your career this year, when you have a great idea, you need to act on it immediately.

More importantly, this other person has created an opportunity that should have been yours. This opportunity could lead to great things in their career. Keeping that in mind, as you move through your career this year, when you have a great idea, you need to act on it immediately.

I have written in the past how I use a standard paper journal to capture ideas for this column and the other writing I do. While this is fine for most situations, there are times when an idea presents itself that needs to be put into action immediately. Perhaps it is a comment on a timely topic, or a new angle on a persistent problem. Whatever the reason, you need to learn to recognize these special ideas and put a plan on how to best exploit them – today.

Sometimes we can wait to act on an idea until we have more information. We want to do more research and more thinking about the idea before we release it to the world. While this can be commendable in some ways, it can also lead to having others “steal your thunder” by moving forward while you dig more deeply.

If you truly think an idea is special, don’t be afraid to write up your preliminary thoughts about it or put together an initial prototype. Will it be flawed? Almost surely, but it will get the idea out into the world and stamp that idea and a reputation for innovation with your name. More importantly, though, the feedback you receive from others will almost certainly help your idea grow into something larger. They may point out fatal flaws in the initial idea or provide a method to expand the idea far beyond its original concept. This feedback is the fuel that drives a good idea into greatness.

The basic difference in these approaches is that in one, you do the thinking in a solitary environment, free from criticism and judgment. In the other, you do your thinking in a public forum with all the good and bad aspects that brings. I personally think that doing your thinking in a public forum is the better of the two for a number of reasons. Most importantly, by doing your thinking on a public scale, you increase your, ever important, visibility.

Last month I wrote about the importance of visibility and you can watch a video of my presentation to BarCamp San Diego on that topic. In a nutshell, you can be the best programmer, the best accountant, the best manager, the best whatever – but if no one knows what you do it is all for naught. You need to constantly be communicating your unique skills, thoughts and thinking process and exposing them to others. In this way, you will find that opportunities start coming to you instead of you spending long hours hunting down opportunities. Getting your ideas out into the world, and developing them in a public forum, is sure to attract attention and raise your visibility among everyone your ideas touch. In this way, the process of generating and working on your ideas, generates its own benefits before the idea ever becomes a workable service or product. Consider it a career form of syndication where you write the column once and yet get paid by every paper where it appears.

Don’t let others steal your career thunder simply because they act on their ideas more quickly than you do. Learn to recognize the great ideas that need immediate action and then take them out for a spin. The benefits to you and your career are far-reaching.


Next Friday: January 25, 2008: Without risk, we all stagnate


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