Charisma is a magical power. It enables humans to hotwire connection and build bridges long before the facts on the ground are clear. Charisma creates rock stars, powerful scientists and con men, too. Misused, charisma is often the road to tragedy, ...

The power (and risk) of charismatic ideas

Charisma is a magical power. It enables humans to hotwire connection and build bridges long before the facts on the ground are clear.

Charisma creates rock stars, powerful scientists and con men, too.

Misused, charisma is often the road to tragedy, because it causes us to suspend disbelief and follow a leader we should have been wary of. On the other hand, charisma in the right hands is the engine that can move us toward better, toward outcomes we might have never achieved if we’d allowed ourselves to be paralyzed by the status quo.

Consider for a moment the charismatic idea. An idea, disconnected from the person who might have conceived it, that spreads from person to person. An idea that’s not only sticky, but viral as well.

I wrote about ideaviruses twenty years ago, but didn’t talk enough there about the very nature of an idea itself. That some ideas, like some people, are more charismatic than others.

When those charismatic ideas contribute to the culture, they create a forward cycle that benefits all of us (I’ll nominate “don’t litter” as an example.) On the other hand, sticky negative ideas (like false fear about vaccination) persist longer than they should.

Our job as marketers is to do the hard work of finding and nurturing charismatic ideas we can be proud of.

One place to start is to look at the ideas you’re trying to spread. Consider whether they’re charismatic enough to earn the effort you’re putting into them–and if not, how to replace them with ideas that are.

HT to the Distance Plan

       

Rationalizing your project

“I followed the recipe exactly, and it failed.”

That’s how many reviews of online recipes begin. Then the poster explains that he replaced the sour cream with yogurt (it’s what he had in the fridge), that he replaced the wheat flour with rice flour (it’s gluten-free) and he used the toaster oven instead of a real oven…

Once you are deep into a project, it’s yours. It’s underway. You have heart and soul and pride invested in it.

In the face of helpful advice, it’s easy to say, “sure, that’s what I’m already doing,” and then torture your description of the current project to make it sort of, almost, sound like you’re following the suggested new approach.

But you’re not. You’re merely wasting time and effort pretending you’re embracing this new way of doing something.

What if, just for a week or even a day, you acted as if?

What if you re-did your plan, or your perceptions of the world or your approach in a totally new way, the way that respects and embraces the thing you just learned. What if you followed the recipe by following the recipe, simply to learn the technique…

After that, after you’ve seen what it can do, then go ahead and see what happens when you re-adopt the cruft that had you looking for a new recipe in the first place.

In the age of unlimited access to recipes, the hard part about getting good advice isn’t getting it. It’s following it. And then you might be able to turn the recipe into insight.

 

PS First priority deadline for the August session of the altMBA is this Friday. When you’re ready to level up, we’re ready for you.

       

Anything you want

The paradox of choice is real, and it gets worse when the choices aren’t even multiple choice.

Confronted with the unlimited selection offered by any music streaming service, people choke. They pick an old favorite, a current hit or something banal. The same is true with the nooks and crannies of Amazon or most pieces of software–when people can have anything they want, suddenly what they want isn’t much at all.

People are good at “a, b or c?”. Not as good at “pick a card, any card.” And terrible at, “think of a number between one and a trillion.”

That’s one reason why writer’s block is far more common than roll-the-dice block.

If you’re on the offering side, it’s on you to be smart about the multiple choice options that can unfold new horizons for us. Curation can do better than “Shuffle”.

And if you’re on the choosing side, you can multiply your impact simply by embracing a method that pushes you toward new (and thus uncomfortable) options.

       

The compass and the map

Wouldn’t it be great if we always had a map? A set of step-by-step instructions on how to get from here to there, wherever we were and wherever we wanted to go…

Steve Pressfield relates this magical story:

A Gurkha rifleman escaped from a Japanese prison in south Burma and walked six hundred miles alone through the jungles to freedom. The journey took him five months, but he never asked the way and he never lost the way. For one thing he could not speak Burmese and for another he regarded all Burmese as traitors. He used a map and when he reached India he showed it to the Intelligence officers, who wanted to know all about his odyssey. Marked in pencil were all the turns he had taken, all the roads and trail forks he has passed, all the rivers he had crossed. It had served him well, that map. The Intelligence officers did not find it so useful. It was a street map of London.

I love this story.

Happy endings come from an understanding of the compass, not the presence of a useful map.

If you’ve got the wrong map, the right compass will get you home if you know how to use it.

Where are you headed?

       

“A good product at a fair price”

Some people say that marketing doesn’t work on them. That all they want is a good product, a fair price, and they’ll be on their way.

But that’s a marketing story as well.

Who decided what ‘good’ was? And ‘fair’? Your preference for the straightforward is still a preference. Your expectations for what you need are simply yours.

It’s all a story.

Great marketers don’t invent frills and fluff in order to create value. Great marketers have the wisdom to know that they will be judged and the practical empathy to go to where those that would judge them are.

       

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