Stand Out

Summary Written by Micheline Bourque
"In today’s competitive economy, it’s not enough to simply do your job well. Developing a reputation as an expert in your field attracts people who want to hire you, do business with you and your company, and spread your ideas. It’s the ultimate form of career insurance."

- Stand Out, page 2

The Big Idea

Finding your Big Idea

"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."- Stand Out, page 17

A Big Idea is one that will get you recognized as a thought leader. It’s what makes us different from the others and allows us to become that go-to person, because of our expertise and our uniqueness.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were an easy way to find this Big Idea? Unfortunately, there isn’t, but it is possible to work through a process to get there. Dorie Clark is setting up the process for us by asking us to look at things differently. By relating how some very smart people did it (Robert Cialdini, for example), she asks us to become inspired by their way of thinking and to try to answer some of these questions ourselves:

  • Are you making the right assumptions?
  • What can you learn from your own experience?
  • How can you be different?
  • Can you imagine something and its opposite (aka Janusian thinking)?
  • Can we learn from other sectors?

Your head might be spinning with all these ‘ask yourself’ questions that she’s developed, but that’s part of the game of coming up with your own Big Idea.

Insight #1

The art of staying on top of trends!

"One of the best ways to develop a reputation as an authority in your field is by staying on top of trends, informing others about them, and sharing your take on what they mean and how we should adapt."- Stand Out, page 27

What if we were to ask people if they can anticipate what’s next in their area of work and what the trends are in their sector? I’m not sure many people could answer those questions with confidence.

‘What’s next!’ Nothing very earth shattering about this idea, but then again, it matters. By finding the answer to that very pertinent question (what’s next), you could become the go-to person as people prepare for changes. And changes, they are coming. You could be the one that will help them identify the steps they need to take.

This is sound advice. Keeping up with the trends has helped me continue in my quest to earn a living as a freelance consultant for close to 20 years now. If I hadn’t kept up with the trends, I would have missed out on so much interesting work and many opportunities.

In this day and age the web is so much part of our life and it impacts everything we do. As Clark states: “There’s a huge amount of fear and uncertainty about how to respond to our changing circumstances, so if you can provide others with sound, intelligent, actionable advice, your work will be noticed – and appreciated.” This is so true and truly resonates with me. This in and of itself is a key wake up call to see the opportunities that lie in being ahead of the game and being willing to share that knowledge. Staying on top of trends is definitely a winning strategy.

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Insight #2

Developing your expert niche!

"Instead of developing a broad theory about how the world works or the direction of the future, you can become the go-to authority on a particular slice that has been overlooked, an area where your extensive knowledge, and ability to communicate, shines."- Stand Out, page 33

Thought leadership is about ideas and making a contribution to the world by making them known. That doesn’t mean you have to have PhD. No, it is possible to become a leader by narrowing down your focus to some specific area in your field. That might seem limiting, but it’s not. Becoming known for a specific area can be a way for you to initially gain exposure but it might eventually also be a way for you to expand your niche. There is some truth to the halo effect: “because you’re already perceived as good at one thing – people generalize and think you’re brilliant overall.”

This is great advice, very much worth thinking about. It might very well be a way to start, to jump on the bandwagon of thought leadership.

Thought leadership is a concept that revolves around ideas, your ideas. It’s about “solving problems and making a difference that creates value for yourself and others”.

I’ve read the book twice. In all honesty, the first time, I read it too quickly. The second time around, I said to myself, Dorie Clark is really on to something here. She’s walking the talk. We are in an era where we have to be ready to fully take advantage of every situation. This is not a book about how to become famous. It’s more about making an impact and contribution. Dorie Clark is passionate about her message, and she wants us to follow our own passions. My next step now is to start answering the long list of ‘ask yourself’ questions… I think I’ll learn from this process of discovery. We live in a world that’s in constant change—why not be the guiding light!

Read the book

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Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark is the author of “Reinventing You” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) and “Stand Out” (Portfolio/Penguin, 2015). A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Entrepreneur, and the World Economic Forum blog. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and speaker for clients including Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, and the World Bank.

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