“At its best, innovation is more than a team sport – it is a networked, collaborative adventure.” (ideo.com)
Are you interested in the practical application of social networking? What happens when we move the ideas from theory into practice?
Tips for Stranded Evangelists
August 31, 2009 at 11:56 am #79336
5 Tips for Stranded Evangelists
August 28, 2009
by Alexandra Samuel
“I don’t think my boss really gets this project. I mean, he still thinks social media is all about marketing! And I’m so tired of fighting to do it right.”
This is the hymn of the Stranded Evangelist: the person who is taking a company or organization into new territory, territory that makes other people (especially the ones in charge) incredibly uncomfortable.
As a social media consultant, I’ve worked with lots of these stranded evangelists who had the insight to see that online community and social media were the way of the future, and the nerve to advocate for that kind of innovation.
Stranded evangelists exist at the frontier of any kind of innovation or new field. It’s an uncomfortable role. The stranded evangelist spends a lot of time arguing, a lot of time building a case, and a lot of time feeling like the company and the bosses don’t understand what’s important.
Still every stranded evangelist I’ve worked with has gone on to incredible success in their organization. They’ve won huge promotions or bigger jobs with better companies because while their organizations may go along grudgingly, they go along. Successful organizations are driven by just these kinds of innovators: the people who see around the next curve, and are willing to push the organization in that direction.
Whether you’re pushing for social media or for a completely different kind of business innovation, social media can help you take the stranded evangelist’s path to success. Here’s how:
1. Look ahead of the curve. If you’re relying on print publications to keep up-to-date in your field, you’re guaranteed to be 3-6 months behind. Track the keywords for your field in delicious and keep an eye on the pages and blog posts that are being frequently bookmarked. Find the top bloggers–the people whose ideas are too edgy to make it into the mainstream quite yet–and read them regularly. Participate in webinars geared to top thinkers in your field. Follow twitterers who are posting innovative ideas and links. Cast a wide net until you find the smart, challenging voices that inspire you to think in new ways.
2. Don’t tell people what they want to hear. Most of us spend a lot of time telling people what they want to hear–in meetings, in conversation, and on our blogs or tweets. But real innovators aren’t afraid to stick their necks out and say or tweet what they really think. Use your own blog, LinkedIn page or tweets to increase your comfort saying the unexpected (or the unwelcome) and to build your skill at diplomatic dissent. Practice (respectful, sensitive) truth-telling in personal conversations online as a way of building your courage for professional truth-telling offline.
3. Follow your heart. If you try to think your way to the leading edge, you’re doomed. The volume of ideas and information online makes it virtually impossible to sift and analyze your way to the very best of the best. There always will be a new new thing, and in my experience, searching for the bleeding edge is just a recipe for blood loss. We jumped into Second Life the way we’ve seen others jump into social media (“gotta get me some social media!”) and ended up spending thousands of dollars on a software project that never saw the light of day. We’ve done much better since we stopped worrying about what “web 3.0” might turn out to be, and focused on innovating where we’re passionate: social media. Follow your passions and instincts, and you’ll naturally be drawn to the areas of innovation that suit you.
4. Get un-stranded. You may be the only one in your company who “gets it”, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Look for the people in your industry or field who are blogging or twittering about the kinds of innovation you’re advocating. Comment on their blog posts, or better yet, write your own blog post in response. Retweet their innovative ideas or respond by twittering your own.
5. Hire a buddy. You wouldn’t swim alone; you don’t need to evangelize alone, either. Dig into that network for an employee, consultant or colleague who can back you up when it’s time to make your case. LinkedIn and Twitter are both great places to discover people in (or outside) your organization who will help build the case for innovation.
It takes insight, courage and diplomacy to be a stranded evangelist for any kind of innovation. Just remember: today’s stranded evangelist is tomorrow’s visionary and respected leader.
September 4, 2009 at 3:40 am #79344
Hi. Great tips! I think I’ll blog just to point people to your post. I especially like your point about the bleeding edge. I use that exact concept when talking about this stuff. My goal is to be leading edge, but not bleeding edge.
I also wanted to mention that I’m doing a free webinar on talking about social media to managers on Sept. 16. Here’s my blog post about it and another webinar I did a couple of days ago. People are free to grab my presentation, too.
Are you on Twitter? I’m @levyj413.
September 4, 2009 at 5:17 am #79342
Gerry La Londe-BergParticipant
I really liked this and plan to use it as guidance. I feel like a quiet voice in a desert, sometimes. But I’ve also got to go find an old handout I had the reminded me that many prophets also turned into martyrs, honored only in their absence. Care and subtlety are also great skills. I learned that the hard way.
September 4, 2009 at 5:44 am #79340
Thanks for posting and sharing this with us. It’s clear and well stated. I think we know what we need to do, even if we aren’t perfect. We will never know it all or really ever be “ready”. Thoughtful action is what we need now. We know enough to take the next solid steps.
At some point, very soon, we should be talking about real stories, models and demonstrations using social media in the applied setting. I think now is the time to take those risks.
I know you guys keep hearing from me about a demonstration project. I’m writing up a proposal to send to some folks and will share it here as well. I’m going to use a very creative style to present a creative approach to doing something better with social networking. It will be very concrete.
If we all start sharing our actual projects or project ideas we might get some traction. Through our experiences we will learn what we don’t know. What a concept. I’ve talked a lot about “failure analysis” an essential part of discovery. It’s valuable, not scary. It always makes a product better.
Doing it over and over until it’s right. Correcting ourselves and sharing our learning. Developing best practices and tip sheets from experience. There are not a lot of people who know that much more than we do. Some have just done more and stepped out further faster.
September 4, 2009 at 10:59 am #79338
I really like this article. I like to think of the way I am presenting my organization to new ideas is “boiling the frog”. If you turn the temp up just a little at a time, a frog will not jump out of the pot. Anytime I am in a meeting, and I have found something on the internet which pertains to the topic at hand (especially from GOVLOOP), I tell the group. There is always the question, “where did you find that information?” Then I must tell everyone where I found the information. They in turn look up the information, and are hooked on the website where the information came from. (((HEE HEE HEE – one person at a time – Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated)))
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