If you are looking to become a recognized expert and influencer in your field, your goal is to make your ideas stand out. But how do you make that happen? Dorie Clark’s book Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It is one of the best resources I’ve come across on this topic. It reads like a how-to guide for developing and promoting thought leadership.
Are you a bagel or a croissant?
No, I’m not asking what you had for breakfast! This question summarizes the direction of Dorie Clark’s book. A “bagel” refers to communicating within a tight circle that makes it difficult for outsiders to break in and contribute to the conversation. A “croissant,” on the other hand, is an open circle that eliminates barriers and welcomes all participants, inviting strangers into the fold.
As the author points out, “Too many of us shrink back when it comes to finding and sharing our ideas with the world.” That’s why many gravitate toward the bagel method of communication: it may feel less risky since you already know everyone. But if you want to stand out, you need to branch out. Dorie’s book explores the guiding principles every aspiring thought leader should be following to develop breakthrough ideas and cultivate a community of followers.
Here are some of my favorites.
Question the unquestionable
Dorie says, “Big ideas aren’t hatched by a rare breed of intellectuals living in isolation. Instead they come from regular people who are willing to ask the right questions and stay open to new ways of looking at the world.”
Cultivating a questioning mindset (what others might call “thinking outside the box”) puts you in the right place for developing the big idea that will help you become a thought leader. Get in the habit of questioning assumptions that others take for granted as truth. Asking “what if?” and “why not?” can give you a unique perspective by opening your mind to possibilities that others would never consider.
Dorie’s advice? “Once you know the rules, break them!”
Leverage your unique gifts
Having a creative breakthrough with the power to “make a dent in the world” (as Steve Jobs would say), often comes from a fresh perspective. I firmly believe that there are enough ways in the world for everyone to have their own: your unique career and life experiences blend into a point of view that no one else shares. Use that to your advantage and connect with others!
Build a community
By now, I think most of us are aware that “if you build it, they will come” is a myth. In a culture where we are constantly barraged by information and ideas, being heard is challenging enough, let alone standing out. I’m sure many of you (myself included) can tell stories about people who are brilliant and hard-working, yet failed in an attempt to launch a new product or service. Talent and diligence alone simply aren’t enough to guarantee that an idea will take hold and spread. That takes a community.
How do you begin to build a community? If you want your ideas to grow and thrive outside of your sphere of influence, Dorie stresses the importance of being a “connector” who makes a point of bringing others together. Doing so helps to develop a following of people who believe in what you’re saying and will keep talking about it even when you’re not in the room.
Make it happen
After spending most of the book advocating the “push” that’s needed to share your viewpoint with the world, Clark suggests that we also need to pull back at times. It’s important to allow yourself “ponder time:” those moments of quiet contemplation that fuel your creative thinking and allow powerful ideas to bubble up to the surface.
When working toward a goal, we tend to behave like a train going full speed ahead. Our intense focus can create tunnel vision that blinds us to opportunities around us. According to Dorie, that’s why seemingly “lucky” people are lucky… they make it happen by opening themselves up to more opportunities.
This was a revelation for me and one of my favorite parts of the book. In fact, I took the lesson to heart and have stated to leave room in my schedule for the unexpected. I’ve already seen my luck and my opportunities increasing!
Perhaps the most meaningful takeaway for me has been the awareness I’ve developed from reading this book. Although most would describe me as a croissant, I am now consciously looking for what others are doing to stand out: how they share information, provide introductions and invite others into their world.
So let’s start the discussion about Stand Out with some questions suggested by the author herself:
- What are others in your field overlooking?
- What are three trends shaping or changing your industry?
- Who would be an ideal mentor or role model for you? How can you make an effort to spend more time with them or get close to them?
Looking forward to reading your unique perspectives on this book!
Interested in listening to the recording of our conversation with Clark? Click here.