The Impact Equation

Plato said, “Mathematics will draw the soul towards truth.”

That’s because math can create a model for how everything works. And there’s always a ‘right’ answer.

So when Chris Brogan and Julien Smith talk about an Impact Equation, they’re trying to get at the ‘truth’ of how to make an impact in today’s connected world (even though their equation is not really mathematical at all, just a simple mnemonic to help you remember key points. It works for me, though.)

Making an impact, they claim, is not about the tool or the platform, it’s about the people. So, Chris and Julien focus on principles that will impact people, regardless of the medium. It’s about spreading ideas and making your mark, no matter how you connect with people. It just so happens that today’s online tools puts everyone on equal playing field where there’s no excuse for you to not to make a difference. Even though Chris and Julien are big advocates of the current tools, and seem to be regarded as ‘social media experts’ that is not their focus. They are experts in the human element – how to be more human – with today’s social tools, instead of just more automated and impersonal, which only creates ‘noise’.

Their equation involves 6 concepts arranged like this:

Impact = C x (R + E + A + T + E)

Where each letter of the word ‘create’ stands for the following concepts:

C= Contrast

R = Reach

E = Exposure

A = Articulation

T = Trust

E = Echo

The word, CREATE, not only helps us to remember the 6 concepts, but also signifies that creating something is at the core of all your work, and impact is the goal.

We all like to think that our ideas or message or life in general will have a positive impact on at least someone somewhere. This book will get us thinking about the dynamics of how impact happens and what strategies we need to incorporate for us to generate more of it.

What will you create that will make an impact?

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Contrast Your Ideas

"When everyone has a tattoo, tattoos cease to stand out and we need more."
- The Impact Equation, Page 65

Contrast is the multiplier of the equation (if you noticed the mathematical operator), which means that it contributes the most to the overall impact. It is the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd. Marketers call it a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) so it is not a new concept, just maybe one that people don’t seem to put a lot of effort into developing.

“The best idea spreaders think hard about how they design and shape their ideas.” pg. 56 In an age where ideas are overwhelmingly abundant and easily published, the only way for one of them to get noticed among the noise is for it to have contrast with all around it. The authors describe good ideas as ones with the right ‘shape’, which means they can be thrown, caught, and bounced effectively, whereas a poorly shaped idea won’t go far.

Ideas have an ecosystem, “they are always competing either until they have achieved a monopoly, like human beings, or until they die out entirely, like the dodo.” As creators we are having ideas all the time, so knowing which ones to nurture and which ones to let die is a critical skill that is helped by the tools of the internet. It is a perfect laboratory for testing environments.

As humans we recognize patterns. We learn everything by recognizing patterns and seeing the breaks in those patterns. We do things we like, that make us happy, and avoid things we don’t like, or that cause us pain. We are always experimenting to find out what side things are on. So, pattern breaking, or contrast, gets our idea into the experiment more easily.

My actionable take away is to spend more time thinking about how my ideas can have contrast and then bouncing them against the market to see what works (and doesn’t.)

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Have Better Ideas

"…idea creation is not an accident. It follows a process. You must recognize a good idea in your head and then mold it like clay until it’s ready for public consumption."
- The Impact Equation, Page 69

We’d all like our YouTube video to go viral, or our web site to be at the top of a Google search for our subject, or our book to reach number one on the best seller list, but that doesn’t happen just because you’ve produced it. You need the design of the idea to have certain qualities. The authors reference the Heath brothers’ Made to Stick as a great resource on this subject, but they explain a few.

One of those essential qualities is that your idea must fulfill a need. “Highly efficient ideas help people fill a blank space in their head, whether they know it exists or not” explain the authors. Your audience needs something useful to them, not just something you think is cool.

Another quality is that good ideas attach themselves to other concepts in the brain. When your idea can be described in one sentence, explained as a metaphor to some familiar concept, it will stick in people’s minds. Chris Brogan calls this “giving your idea handles,” because people can hold onto it and put it in their mind where it fits alongside other concepts. (See, that was a metaphor.)

Along with good qualities, Chris and Julien have developed a framework for helping an idea serve your needs. They list 7 useful questions on pages 70 and 71 that help you determine how it fits into your work, such as, what is the goal of the idea, can I make it happen, and when will I be done.

I’ll be using this framework and designing my ideas with ‘sticky’ qualities as part of my actions.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Get Emotional

"Good ideas make you feel… something, anything!"
- The Impact Equation, Page 73

Another essential quality of a good idea is that it goes past the brain and reaches into the heart. The only reason people feel compelled to share something with others is when they have had an emotional experience with your idea. They are wiping tears either because of sadness, compassion, joy, or because they are laughing so hard their gut hurts.

Information alone does not sway people to make decisions. Logically, you may think it makes the most sense, if people only knew the facts, they would choose correctly, but the market tells us otherwise. Think of the commercials you remember most. Are they the ones that displayed the most facts in a list of bullet points? I don’t think so. You remember the ones that made you fall off your chair laughing, or digging into your wallet to donate because you couldn’t bear to see another helpless child suffer.

People react to emotion. That’s what makes us unique and human. Let computers handle the number crunching and information gathering, we have a higher power when communicating with other humans. Find the emotional angle to your idea to give it that power of impact in the human world.

Chris and Julien are excellent humans. They know how to make an impact because they’ve done it. They’ve also done things that haven’t been so effective, and they’ve learned from their mistakes. If you’d like some game changing instruction on how to make a difference in the world, then I highly recommend reading The Impact Equation. It’ll help you make things happen, instead of just making noise.

What have you learned from creating ideas and launching them into the marketplace? Have you made an impact, or just noise?

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Rex Williams

ABOUT Rex Williams

I'm a curious connector of people and ideas. I crave learning new things and invoking a creative twist to my methods. By day, I work as an engineer, general problem solver (and recently video producer) at the Boeing company as I fight the status quo and start movements, but after work I hang out with entrepreneur and rabble-rouser types online (like this group...
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