Listen, I know everyone is strapped for time so I think this post will be a quick and dirty one.
The number one reason why you might be missing out on great social change ideas is this: You don’t know what you don’t know and don’t do anything about it.
Yep. It’s fairly obvious once you stop and think about it.
You don’t know what you don’t know. What makes this so dangerous to social change leaders is that there are only two scenarios that break the cycle of unawareness.
1. Constantly putting yourself in the way of learning through a diverse spectrum of topics and mediums.
2. Your social and professional sphere of interaction.
So for #1: Think email/newsletter subscriptions, audio books, podcasts, membership sites etc. For #2, a question to ask is this: Do you have friends or colleagues comfortable enough to share opposing viewpoints on strategies or ideas that are different?
Let’s be honest. Not too many people go out of their way to learn more about something they do every day, let alone actively read up on things that are completely different from their view point. For example, if I’ve been a counselor for 10 years, there comes to a point where I went to enough conferences and learned enough theories or practices to stop actively finding new knowledge, right?
This might not be you because all my readers are life long learners 😉 but most would conclude that after X amount of time, you would acquire a critical mass of knowledge that would make “game changing” insight harder and harder to come across.
Having said that, I think we all know at least one person who eats, breathes, and drinks their profession or cause…because they don’t look at it as a profession, they look at it as just LIFE itself. Am I saying you HAVE to be that person? Hell no. What I am saying is that if you don’t do something that challenges the way you think or how you approach something systematically at least on a weekly basis, you might be losing ground on how effective you are little by little.
And if you don’t do something about it TODAY, then 4-5 years from now, you might wake up reporting to that same freak who was obsessed with consuming and testing new ideas and best practices out-ranking you and out-earning you! (Yeah, out-earning you…don’t pretend like salary isn’t a real issue for you).
So, if you are still being honest and you are not actively engaging in #1 above, then the only place you are sourcing new information is probably what you see on Social Media (which I don’t even count) or friends and colleagues…
Take a moment to think about that…
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.
And what Psych 101 tells us is that the average person likes to stick with their own people group who share similar beliefs and values (again, I wouldn’t count Social Media as a legitimate channel because of this study on how Marijuana Contains “Alien DNA” From Outside Of Our Solar System, NASA Confirms). Why? Because AVERAGE people like hanging around other AVERAGE people who only exchange AVERAGE ideas.
In short, this is a bubble that must be popped if this sounds like you. If it has been years since you made significant ground in your organization in size and funding, then this is DEFINITELY you and you have have plateaued.
So, if you are not actively pursuing new information from new sources you probably will miss some major breakthroughs. If you don’t expose yourself to new people and new situations, you are very much likely to go throughout your career professionally stunted.
It is important to note what should qualify “new sources”.
1. Something COMPLETELY opposing your current views on a particular position or topic.
2. Something COMPLETELY outside the domain of your industry, (e.g. Skip the book titled, “Social Media Marketing for Nonprofits” and go straight to Gary Vaynerchuk’s work).
Okay, so why should I care so much about making the obvious point of “we don’t know what we don’t know” and what we should do about it? Well, because you are special type of crazy in that you chose to work towards social change. And for that reason,you are freakin’ awesome. The thing that drives me up the wall is when awesome people don’t live up to their true potential…it is even WORSE when you fall in the trap to just rest on your previous victories and knowledge base.
So, since we have agreed that we are honest, let’s make this perfectly clear.
What got you here, won’t get you there (Marshall Goldsmith).
And to not actively engage in constant improvement is to say we are okay at being good at social change, but not great. And if we are brothers and sisters in the struggle, then there comes a time when we have to create space to become more accountable.
People might wonder, “Aren’t you being a little too harsh here…What is the big deal? We just have to try harder and do our best”.
Yeah, that sounds cute. And theoretically, that would be right, but the reality is there are huge pockets of governmental and corporate interests who LOVE that we have not yet moved the needle on certain issues, actually lost ground on others (like the rise of slums) and only deal with the symptom and not the root causes of social change. And while they are pushing their agenda hard 24/7 like a friggin’ machine at the expense of our people just to get a 1% or 2% increase market share, we are over here debating the overhead myth (which, by the way is complete horseshit…overhead and admin costs should be higher if we are to be effective and efficient in this day and age).
This is a huge reason why the organizations that are less “romantic” about their methods tend to stick around longer. They are constantly aware of competitive landscape of funding and support and they never “arrive” at a point where they feel that they know all that they need to know- about ANYTHING- ever! So forgive me if I am not too tolerant on just “giving it the good ol’ college try and hope for the best.”
Sometimes, I feel like we just need someone to make the point and say, “F*ck hope!” with a fist in the air calling for massive action!
I know, I know, hope is paramount, but you get what I mean…
It isn’t enough. And we need to get real about it.
So to bring it home because I said I would keep it quick and dirty…probably more the latter with my potty mouth…I’ll say this: The social change leader that will take their organization, dare I say the industry, to the next level, will be committed to seeking out new information and experimenting at all times. And in that pursuit, would likely stumble upon the thing they needed most for greater levels of growth and impact by simply admitting that they didn’t know that they didn’t know…but did something about it.