The Idea Life Cycle

Idea Life Cycle

If you have any background in marketing at all, you have probably heard of the product life cycle. This theory is unfortunately not really applicable for those of us who live in the world of ideas.

Great ideas come into the world through a variety of means including divine inspiration, observation, and conversation. Regardless of their origin, ideas follow a path from the time they are born, their genesis, until they are ultimately either accepted by the general public or just fade away due to lack of acceptance.

The timing of the idea life cycle is nebulous; each phase takes an indeterminate amount of time relative to the uniqueness of the idea and the receptivity of others beyond the person or people who introduce the idea. In addition, this cycle is not necessarily linear. Ideas can go from one phase to another without any logical explanation. It is difficult if not impossible to predict how an idea will flow through this cycle.

Nonetheless, understanding how the idea life cycle works can help those of us who thrive on innovation determine the trajectory of new ideas that we generate and share with others.

There are four phases in the idea life cycle: emergence; vetting; legitimacy; and, finally, either assimilation or psychic death.

Emergence: The idea is shared beyond its originators. The idea may spread quickly, at a snail’s pace, or at the speed of frozen molasses pouring out of a jar.

Vetting: Other people are starting to notice the idea and gauge its validity in alignment with their pre-existing ideas about the world. People react to the idea in a variety of ways from curiosity to animosity and everything in-between. There may be a few aha moments.

Legitimacy: The idea is tested as people start to integrate it with their existing perceptions and worldviews. These testers encounter reactions to this integration and decide whether to adopt or reject the idea based on both the ease with which they can integrate the idea into their lives and the reactions of their peers.

Assimilation or Psychic Death: The idea becomes adopted by a mass of people, and therefore it likely also becomes tainted in multiple ways by the people who feel close to this idea; or, it dies because people so vehemently reject it that there is no way it can survive. Ideas that live on or die can enter any phase of the idea life cycle as people, and their views, continue to evolve.

Which Type Are You? Activism for Every Personality

which type are you

When you think of the word activist, what image pops into your head? Do you think of a person who takes immense physical and emotional risks in defense of a noble cause? Or do you think of a person who combines eloquent speech with vitriolic enthusiasm and extreme tactics? These descriptions reflect our society’s ingrained thoughts about activists. Like our thinking about leaders, they are seen as the people out front and in your face. Activist movements are understood to a great extent through the lens of the people who are leading them. But in reality, activism — like leadership — is about the collective.

Unfortunately, many activists themselves buy into this myth that only the contributions of activists who are the most visible, and most vocal, are truly legitimate and valuable. This leaves a lot of people, and their talent, in the margins of activist movements. It also makes for too much posturing, hypocrisy, and abuse of power.

We need to move more inclusive movements where all people have the opportunity to participate according to their ability and will without fear of judgment and exclusion.

If you care about our world, you don’t need to wait for an invitation to get involved. While there are some people who take up a lot of space in the acti-verse, there are a lot of opportunities for you to make a difference.

When making the claim, I am an activist, you are stating that your intellect and emotion has been activated in response to an injustice (or multiple injustices). ‘Activist’ is not a title merely for the elusive and exclusive few.  At the same time, the title of activist should not be used lightly. With it comes the responsibility to make a meaningful and significant contribution to the best of our ability.

The pathways through which we are able to express our activated response and take aligned action can be very narrow and, at times, nebulous. The purpose of this essay is to create new pathways so that activists of all flavors can visualize and actualize possibilities for participation. To do this, I will describe some archetypes of activism. You may see yourself in one or several of these types. By identifying your type or types, you can deepen and expand your contributions to progressive activist work.

The Visionary: You see a better world that others cannot yet comprehend or think is out of reach. You inspire people with your ability to conceptualize and describe possibilities, even if you don’t quite know how to make it all happen.

The Mastermind: You are a master planner who knows how all of the moving parts fit together. Your understanding of how people and systems interact fuels your ability to develop strategy.

The Evangelist: You like to spread the word. A social media aficionado, you have the ability to engage people through posts, likes, shares, and forwards. This passion for sharing ideas and information may also carry over into the ‘real world’ through phone calls and conversations.

The Artist: You have a deep appreciation for aesthetics and you use these values to challenge perceptions of reality. You are able to share new ways of understanding the world through creative movement and visualization.

The Mobilizer: You like to make new friends and build your network. Your action orientation compels you to connect people to each other and to ideals and activities that result in significant experiences.

The Harmonizer: You just want everyone to get along peacefully. Because you are always seeking new ways to integrate ideas and to be more inclusive, you ensure that activist work reflects its own ideals.

The Catalyst: You question why everything is done the way it is done and are always seeking to change both the process and outcome. You spark change through both ideas and actions.

All of these archetypes are important in progressive social movements — and there are others as well. Regardless of your skills and personality, you can be an activist and make a difference. Today. Right Now.

L3: Practice Patience

This one is a major toughie for me. I am scandalously impatient. I want to achieve my goals and I want to achieve them now! But by failing to practice patience, I am shortchanging myself, other people, and the potentially beautiful results of allowing things to unfold without my incessant prodding and interference.

Waiting is not a punishment; it is actually an opportunity to reflect, meditate, pray, and realize the many intricacies and delicacies of the natural process of life. Lingering fulfillment of goals builds a sense of anticipation that arouses joy and excitement. When those goals are finally achieved, a greater appreciation for the results will ensue. This may be difficult to realize during the time you are waiting, but in retrospect we nearly always know that what we have created was worth the wait.

Great things must be done with great care. When we hurry or rush the process, we risk being sloppy and counterproductive. Experiences that are carefully cultivated with tenderlovingcare hold greater meaning and value than those that are expedited to save time or money.

Sustainable change takes time. Think in terms of long-term results rather than short term indulgences. Meaningful relationships, sufficient resources, and efficient and effective processes are highly complex phenomena that, when lovingly developed and nurtured, will lead you toward fulfillment of your vision.

While it is helpful to continually reflect upon your vision and its meaning, both to you and to the world, it is equally important that we remain centered in the present moment. When we place too much emphasis on the past or the future, we miss out on the present or, as some people refer to it, “the gift.” Right now, you are alive and alight with the brilliance of your existence; each breath is an affirmation that this very moment is only time we truly have to enjoy.

In addition to neglecting patience in terms of time, we sometimes lose patience with ourselves and other people. When people fail to meet our expectations, it is easy to react with interrogation and condescension. Remember that time is available to you to reflect before responding. While time is a precious resource that few of us have to spare, using it in this way will improve your ability to respond with compassion in the future. It will also build trust and understanding, preventing the current situation from escalating. Consider it a wise investment.

L3: Expose Your Vulnerability

Imagine yourself running down the street naked. Not a pretty thought? Don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest you do something as extreme as that. There are more advantageous, and appropriate, means of exposing your vulnerability to others. This may include asking for help, admitting a mistake, or accepting failure.

When I was younger, I felt it was important to demonstrate my competence in order to build others’ confidence in my ability to do a good job. This shortsighted behavior resulted in all sorts of problems including important files being thrown away and oversights on reports. Pretending to know everything was not only dishonest, it prevented me from learning and developing truly supportive relationships with my supervisors. I probably also looked foolish because nobody, not even the most intelligent people in the world, really know everything. That is an unrealistic expectation and an invitation for isolation and eventual self-destruction.

Now that I am in a position of leadership, I openly admit gaps in knowledge and mistakes that I have made to my coworkers, board of directors, and colleagues. I also strive to create a safe environment for others to do the same. I see my work team as a collaborative group that shares its intellectual resources both to expand each person’s working knowledge and to complement each other’s work. Keeping an open flow of information, resources, and support helps everyone both individually and collectively.

I am sometimes tempted to share personal information about myself in professional settings in order to build stronger relationships. Exposing vulnerability in this way can sometimes backfire. It can be difficult to determine the most appropriate place to draw the line, and this varies from individual to individual. Trust your instincts and freely share stories and information about yourself to the extent that you feel comfortable and safe. Measure what you have to gain against what you have to loose and make an active choice about what to share with whom.

Our ability to expose our vulnerability is derived from our character, sincerity, sense of humor, confidence, and courage. When our core is strong, we remain unwavered when the gentle breezes of exposure roll by. In fact, these experiences nourish our souls and help us grow.

As leaders, we are expected to stand out – not because we’re perfect, but because we are willing to take risks. Be willing to try new things even when there is a possibility of messing it up. Take a leap of faith in yourself, and have a little fun. If you are consistently genuine, your team will be sure to catch you before you fall.