The Difference Imperative is your next step in the action plan for the Make a Difference Mindset.
Here are the three elements. Define and refine them with rigorous clarity, because failing to do so could mean you misfire in your goal of making a difference:
All three steps are crucial to make significant differences happen. A generalised desire to make a difference that does not have a specific and motivating outcome is doomed to struggle. It is unlikely to happen.
Stimulus – Defenceless innocent prisoners being tortured by regimes that have no accountability for their activities, and no reason to desist.
Concept – funding lawyers to fight on their behalf, and mobilising world opinion to halt the abuses.
Brand – giving it a name that makes it memorable, engaging, and gives it energy – Amnesty International.
The combination of elements has an enormous impact in making a difference happen. It excites minds, stimulates compassion and creates energy.
Refining the Stimulus
The stimulus can sometimes provide your purpose. Having someone close to you die can be the stimulus to raise funds to help prevent similar deaths, or to channel the compassion created by the tragedy into some new, life-enhancing project.
Seeing pictures of a natural disaster like an earthquake or a tsunami can stir you compassion with an intensity that makes you feel that you have to do something positive as a human being to help the situation.
Or, seeing wasteful destruction of wildlife, or environments, may stir your anger, so you feel an urgent need to do something to improve the situation.
Whatever your stimulus, if it is powerful enough to become your purpose, embrace it, because it means you are well on the track to becoming a Difference Driver, a Difference Deliverer, or, if it closer to home, a Beneficial Presence.
Your purpose needs to be there, at least in embryonic form, for the stimulus to take root and flower. An absence of purpose, or lack of compassion, will mean the stimulus falls on stony ground.
Enhancing your stimulus
Fleshing out your purpose – giving it blood in its veins – is what enhancing your stimulus is about.
Say your purpose is to help the starving. Do some active research to find a stimulus that will pinpoint the exact area of the challenge you find most engaging. This is likely the area you will find most rewarding when you set about making the difference. You will therefore be more energised, and more capable of rising to the challenges which will inevitably come on the journey.
Research the subject on the Internet, see what charities are already involved in trying to help. Talk to one or two of them, and if possible, talk to people operating in the field – engaging with the problem at first hand. If you can, make a trip to the region that interests you most, and experience the situation in person.
Watch fundraising events staged by some of the TV channels. Celebrities often go out to witness events at first hand, and you can see the importance of what they are doing move from their heads to their hearts. You can see they are moved by what they are seeing, and their fundraising efforts are much more powerful as a result.
Revisiting your stimulus keeps your purpose powerfully in your heart, and prevents it slipping back into your head. It keeps your courage and motivation strong, and reminds you why you are striving to create value to bring about a positive difference. And it gives you fresh energy.
Choosing the Concept that will make the difference
This can be straightforward:
- Setting up a charity to help other people with the disease that killed our loved one, or blighted their life
- Putting together a Greening Committee at the place you work to find ways of making the organisation more sustainable in all its activities
- Creating a choir, rap group, or band for local kids who need more creative outlets for their energies
Or it can be challenging:
- You work for an organisation which has a worthwhile purpose, but is feebly led, and is failing to provide its customers with the benefits it should be providing
- You want to improve your family’s diet, but impenetrable food labelling gives you no help in understanding what is good, and what is not, good for their health
- The department you work in has a culture of backbiting and cynicism, but you feel the majority of your colleagues would respond to an initiative to improve the situation
So some concepts are fairly self-evident, but others demand some pretty profound reflection – coupled with some imagination – to provide a solution.
The quality of the input (the concept you come up with) will equal the quality of the output (how effective the concept is at changing things for the better).
So don’t short change this bit. Look for radical, innovative concepts that will create sufficient new value to change things.
Daring ideas excite people and change situations.
Branding the Concept
Brands are everywhere today. It’s not just products and services. Countries are brands. Universities are brands. Even charities are brands. Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Red Cross, are all brands. Greenpeace is one of the most powerful brands in all categories in the world.
In a confusing and complicated world brands are a shorthand way of communicating the value of something.
Once you hear a brand name – whether it’s a chocolate bar or a charity – you know its depth and width. It saves time researching a product of service – the brand name provides you with much of the information you need.
The important thing about a brand is that customers are in charge. The brand’s franchise exists in the hearts and minds of consumers. Whatever the brand owners may say, it is the experience of consumers that is the judge and jury as to whether the brand is trusted, or rejected.
Brands are built on trust, and trust alone, so they have to deliver, or they will wither and die. What makes a brand stand out is the value it creates, and its relevance, for consumers. A brand’s reputation depends on this distinctive core value.
So if you are serious about making a difference you may have to brand your concept. This does not diminish the importance of a compelling concept.
The solution to the situation you want changed needs to be workable, and, ultimately achievable. As with all brands, the quality of the content and its consistency and efficacy (whether it’s a product or a service) is what gives it longevity, and earns it trust.
There are a lot of people out there also trying to make a difference – and that’s great. But if you want to make a real difference you’ll need to stand out from the crowd. You’ll need a powerful concept and it will need branding so it will come to be recognised over time as worthwhile and trustworthy. The brand reputation will not happen overnight. It is in the nature of brands that they have to be tested over time in the marketplace before they are accepted.
Banding has two effects:
- Defining the essence of the brand is a rigorous way of testing the offer (the concept) so you can feel confident it has merit
- People can understand rapidly what the new value of your concept is made up of, and whether they find it relevant and motivating.
Generally speaking, it is the Difference Drivers who create and launch the brand. Difference Deliverers examine the new brand, see it accords with their purpose and stimulus, become part of the brand, and in so doing, are crucial in making it a success.
Difference Deliverers are vital to brand building. It is they who make it happen. The doctors and nurses working for Medecins Sans Frontiers, or the people collecting for a local charity, are brand builders and ambassadors. They become part of the brand by helping to sustain the value created by the brand. They support it either by volunteering to help, or by giving money.
Getting the brand right, and building its trustworthiness over time has three benefits. Take Amnesty International, Red Cross, Greenpeace, Medecins Sans Frontiers, or any major established internationally branded charity, and you will find the brand name has the following benefits:
- It is an effective calling card which opens doors (imagine trying to get past some governments to provide help, or lobby for action on human rights, environmental protection without a major brand name behind you)
- It creates a sense of identity for workers within the organisation, and for fundraisers (it provides a shorthand, saving long explanations about what its purpose is)
- It provides reassurance and trust for donors (who can be confident that funds will not be misappropriated, or find their way into the pockets of corrupt middlemen)
Put a Date on It
You may want to set specific goals for the difference you want to make. If you do – great. If you don’t feel goals are relevant – you know your purpose, you have your stimulus, you have worked on your concept, and it seems appropriate to make it a brand – forget goals, and concentrate on making it happen.
Make making it happen your goal.
And put a date on it, so you know when you’ve got to deliver it by.
Putting a date on when you will make a difference by makes you accountable. Write the date down, and put it somewhere you see it several times a day.
The date will be the focus of your Difference Imperative.
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