The Challenges of Going Public with an Idea

Or, Just Shoot Me

I'm starting to do public stuff around the content of my forthcoming book, Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas. Speaking, teaching-like gigs, interviews, and the like. Much shooting of video is involved.

Here's the thing I would like to say. My book talks about the trials and tribulations of going public with an idea, and, even though I have written about them and see them coming, I am having trials and tribulations just like the other authors, idea entrepreneurs, and idea-driven people I work with. These include:

  • Trouble with the sentence. Boiling the content down to the perfect pithy summation. This is very hard to do. You have to keep working and reworking it. If you're lucky, somebody ELSE will come up with it for you—off the cuff, in a question, or whatever. Listen for it. Embrace it. Going public is much easier if you have that one-liner everyone can walk away with.
  • Personal narrative squeamishness. One of my main observations regarding idea entrepreneurs is that they link their personal narrative to their idea. Going public effectively means talking about yourself: events in your life, screw-ups perhaps, moments of revelation. Not everybody is naturally inclined to reveal themselves in public, and I'm finding it tough, too.
  • Conversion of written content to spoken content. A book is one thing and a talk is something totally other. After spending about four years in the writing phase, it is a tricky transition to the talking activity. Words flow differently. Structure is different. More story-telling is required. Writing is fixed; talking requires constant adjustments throughout.
  • Audience expectations. And then there is the audience. Sitting there, looking at you. You have a few nodders and note takers and smilers. You naturally point yourself toward them. Then you have the stone-faced ones, whose reactions are impossible to read. And, of course, the Tweeters and texters, who are in seven places at once. Sometimes a person in the audience gets in your head, as a guy did at a recent talk I gave. He seemed to be smirking at me. I began to think he represented the whole audience. No, people came up afterwards and said, "Great!"
  • How you look on video. Then there's the obvious and unavoidable issue of your affect on video. A big part of going public is feeling okay with your visage representing your idea, which can be nerve wracking. In one recent shoot, my bald head reminded me of the surface of a road on a sunny day. You know that "sea of mica" look? Where was the make-up artist for that one? Shooting is mostly fun, but sometimes you would prefer just to be shot.

It's all part of going public, or so I tell my clients.

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About Idea Platforms

Idea Platforms, Inc. collaborates with individuals and organizations to develop and structure idea-driven content, create various forms of expression (including books and visual media), and help build self-reinforcing platforms that extend and enrich content across many channels and venues and over extended periods of time.

Highlighted Works

Overlay Books

The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong In a World Where Things Go Wrong

The Idea Platforms team collaborated with author Dr. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, to develop the proposal for this book on social resilience, place it with publisher PublicAffairs, conduct interviews and field research—in Colombia, Kenya, India, and the United States—draft and edit text, and help build and support a platform for Dr. Rodin and her ideas. The book is a "revealing examination of the anatomy of resilience" according to the Kirkus starred review. Endorsers include President Bill Clinton, Arianna Huffington, Michael Bloomberg. (PublicAffairs, 2014. 384 pages.)

Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things

IPI worked closely with author David Rose, serial entrepreneur and MIT Media Lab lecturer, to develop this book that presents an alternate vision of the future of technology, one of technology-infused but humanistic objects rather than more screens and apps. The New York Times writes of the book: "Delightful... In the scrum of talking heads wrestling to gain control of the narrative behind the Internet of Things, Mr. Rose is an engaging, plain-spoken guide." (Scribner, 2014. 320 pages.)

Trading Up: The New American Luxury

The IPI team partnered with co-authors Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske of The Boston Consulting Group to create this definitive work on consumerism and support the book in multiple media. It won the Berry-AMA Book Prize for 2003 and was a BusinessWeek bestseller. David Brooks writes: "Trading Up is far more than a dissection of a single consumer trend. It is packed with insights on how shoppers think and behave. I found it incredibly smart and illuminating." (Portfolio/Penguin, 2003. 316 pages.)

John Butman, founder and principal of Idea Platforms, has been involved in the development of ideas and the creation of expressions with a wide range of partners and collaborators, including influential organizations and institutions such as The Boston Consulting Group, NASA, The National Park Service, and The Rockefeller Foundation; influential companies including American Express, IBM, and GE; educational institutions including Brandeis, Harvard, Tufts, and the University of Massachusetts; as well as rising individual stars including entrepreneur and technologist David Rose, psychiatrist John Sharp, and executive Vineet Nayar. John has worked closely with clients in Africa, China, Europe, India, and throughout the United States. He is the author of six books, including Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) and is a frequent speaker for clients including American Express, The Chautauqua Institute, Google, and many others. His work has been featured in major publications throughout the world, including The Atlantic, BigThink, The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, Harvard Business Review, Financial Times, Hindustani Times, Huffington Post, The Independent, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time. His titles include bestsellers in The New York Times, BusinessWeek, and The Boston Globe. His media work has been featured or awarded honors at festivals and competitions around the world, including The American Film Festival, The Athens International Film Festival, and the Chicago International Film Festival. According to Jeanie Duck, formerly of The Boston Consulting Group and author of The Change Monster, John is a "dream come true as editor and collaborator."