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7 Steps to Becoming an Idea Entrepreneur

Have an idea that will change behavior in your company or in the world? Here's what you need to do.

Every so often a disruptive idea will come along that shifts the mindset of thousands of people. Where do these ideas come from? How do their creators breathe life into them, gaining followings that lead to culture-wide behavior change? 

John Butman, author of Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas and founder of the content development firm Idea Platforms, Inc., explores these question in a recent post for Harvard Business Review. 

Here are seven steps he says leaders should take in order to become "idea entrepreneurs."

Accumulate evidence. For an idea to gain influence, leaders need to become "resident experts," says Butman. That can be done by collecting supporting materials such as data, stories, and analysis, as well as by talking with others, "gathering opinions, refining the ideas and practices, making connections and gaining supporters." 

Develop practices. In order for your idea to take root, followers need to be provided with "specific, practical ways to put it into everyday use." 

Create a sacred expression. Whether it's a video, a different kind of a visual, or a written memo, every idea needs a compelling articulation, says Butman. 

Encourage "respiration" around your idea. "The only way to get an idea breathing on its own is to show up, in person," says Butman. Leaders should put themselves out there and engage others in order to bring their idea to life. 

Include your personal narrative. "Idea entrepreneurs always present their idea in context of their own life story," says Butman, adding that personal story is what gives the idea a personality. 

Align with a metric. "Influence cannot be definitely measured in financial terms, but people need some way to calculate its value," says Butman. For example, "people associate Malcolm Gladwell's idea of mastery through the '10,000 hours of practice' metric."

Expect backlash. Disruptive new ideas should elicit an intense response. "Intense response--positive and negative--is a sign that people are taking the idea seriously. No challenges, no point," says Butman.

Last updated: Aug 14, 2013


Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

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