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How to Be Revolutionary

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What sets apart people and companies who are merely successful from those who are revolutionary?

We all know it when we see it. Most computer companies are successful, Apple is revolutionary. Same goes for your average coffee shops compared to Starbucks, or your average musician compared to the ones that consistently top the Billboard charts.

The question is: what allows these brands and people to achieve extraordinary levels of success and influence? Last month, we chose Rules for Revolutionaries for our Science of People book club to find out.

As the former Chief Evangelist of Apple, the author of RulesGuy Kawasaki, has seen first hand what legendary leaders do differently. In his book, he shares all the secrets he’s learned from the world’s top brands and reveals the steps you can take to become a revolutionary too.

Here are the top three rules for revolutionaries:

“Create Like a God”

The key difference that sets revolutionaries apart from everyone else is that they are master creators. It’s what they bring to life, not just who they are, that makes them influential.

Think as Broadly as Possible

To come up with a revolutionary idea, you need to create a solution that stands out from everything that currently exists. That’s no simple task. Here’s a simplified version of Kawasaki’s idea generation process:

  1. Forget all your preconceived notions about the problem and how it should be solved; this will prevent you from coming up with original ideas.
  2. Come up with as many solutions as you can, drawing inspiration from nature, other companies and anything else you can learn from.
  3. Once you’ve come with as many ideas as possible, one or two should stand out as being the most viable.

Embrace Imperfection

Perfectionism is the killer of progress. When you’re creating an original idea, you have to be willing to share it before you’ve worked out all the kinks.

Revolutionary products don’t fail because they are shipped too early. They fail because they aren’t revised fast enough.

Guy Kawasaki

The feedback you receive from the early versions of your idea will help you improve it.

“Command Like a King”

It doesn’t matter how great your ideas are, if you don’t have the confidence and communication skills to share them with others, you’ll never be revolutionary. Here’s how to get your idea to rise above your competition:

Make Your Ideas Understandable

One of the biggest problems that brilliant people create for themselves is forgetting that other people don’t always have the same knowledge or interests they do. I see this all the time where someone will explain a great idea but the people they are talking to zone out or aren’t persuaded because they don’t understand it.

Instead of excitedly sharing all the details of your idea with people, Kawasaki says you should focus on getting people involved. Here are a few examples:

  • If you have a product or service that people can use, let them test drive it.
  • If what you’re promoting is something that people are already using/doing, tell people that listening to you means they get to become a part of something greater.
  • If you want people to get involved, tell them how.

Look at Science of People, for example. Instead of just giving you tons of science which would be confusing and overwhelming, we explain easy ways for you to apply our research and to get involved.

Turn People into Loyal Followers

While it’s great to have people listen to your idea, buy your product, sign up for your newsletter or whatever it is you’re trying to get people to do, Kawasaki believes that what sets apart people who are successful from those who are revolutionary is that successful people sell products and ideas whereas revolutionary people and companies create loyal followers.

To get people to follow you and feel personally invested in what you, you need to inspire them to create an emotional connection with what you’re doing. The easiest way to do this is to share your vision with people so they can connect with your ideas on a deeper level.

Simon Sinek has a fantastic TED talk that teaches you how to use your vision to attract loyal followers:

Ignore Success Myths

The blogosphere and business world is filled with advice that sounds like it makes sense but leads you to failure.

Here are a few myths that Kawasaki says you need to stop believing in right now:

  • You should say yes to every opportunity. Revolutionary ideas aren’t for everyone and if you say yes to every suggestion and/or opportunity, you will lose your ability to deliver the high quality that that makes you/your business revolutionary.
  • You will succeed if you have a great product/idea. Having a valuable idea is only the first step.  To become a revolutionary, you need to persuade people to listen to it. That’s the challenging part.
  • You have to be a workaholic. Success requires an extraordinary amount of work, but if you don’t take breaks, you will burn out and lose  the energy and creativity that you need to implement your ideas.

#3 “Work Like a Slave”

No, this does not mean become a workaholic (see above). When Kawasaki says “work like a slave” he means that revolutionaries must do whatever it takes to make their visions succeed.

There are two key areas that revolutionaries invest an extraordinary amount of energy in that most people forget about.

Use Information Like Currency

The most innovative people create great ideas not because they are naturally intelligent but because they are constantly learning.

The more information you give away, the more you get as people come to trust you and see mutual benefits.

Guy Kawasaki

Many people make the mistake of being secretive about their ideas because they are afraid they are going to get stolen. The problem with this strategy is people who could help you lack understanding about what you do and become unwilling to help because you are so closed off.

Sharing ideas and knowledge with other smart, innovative people allows you to build relationships that give you access to a wealth of insights that accelerate your growth.  

Treat People Like Equals

Despite the prestige they appear to offer, titles say very little about people. When deciding who you want to work with to make your visions become realities, treat everyone like equals. Often times, it’s the people with lower positions who have the most valuable ideas and talents because they connect with people and your ideas in different ways than you do.

The same goes with your team. When you trust them to make smart decisions and give them the intellectual resources they need to succeed, they produce far better results than if you micromanage them.

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