Generous Ideas Blow Up Real Good

Ideas for good can be very powerful.

They can grow and spread at a surprisingly rapid rate.

But not without a purpose, a tribe, a story, and a movement.

Like Blake’s big boom

It was finally time for a little fun. He needed it. Running four startups was getting to him.

So he decided to take some time off and travel around Argentina.

He spent his days learning to tango, playing the national sport, and, of course, drinking the national wine.

Kaboom! Alpargate!

He also got used to wearing the national shoe called the alpargata. A soft, casual canvas shoe worn by almost everyone in the country.

That’s when the first idea quietly crept into his mind: Maybe the alpargata could be marketed in the United States.

Nah. Forget it. After all, his time in Argentina was supposed to be about fun, not work.

And then that woman came along

She was a volunteer for a local clothing drive. And she kept telling him things he didn’t want to hear.

Like what the lack of shoes was doing to most kids in Argentina. It effected the essentials of their lives like attending school and getting water from the local well. But worse, it also exposed them to a lot of diseases.

She dragged him away from his polo game and tango lessons to follow her on her rounds.

He watched the kids waiting in line for hours

And he watched them leave. Still barefoot. Because there weren’t enough shoes in the right sizes. It was heartbreaking.

He knew in the back of his mind that poor children around the world often went barefoot. But now, for the first time, he saw the real effects of being shoeless. He saw the blisters. The sores. The infections.

And that’s when the second idea hit

Why not create a for-profit business to help give shoes to these children? Why not come up with a solution that guaranteed a constant flow of shoes, not just when kind people were able to make a donation?

In other words, maybe the solution was in entrepreneurship, not charity.

The idea was simple

One for one. Buy a pair of shoes for yourself and we’ll give a kid in need a pair.

Blake Mycoski’s simple idea blew up and turned into a global movement called TOMS Shoes. And as a result, his tribe has provided over 60 million pairs of shoes to children since 2006,

But Blake recognized other vital needs during his travels around the world. He realized that One for One could be applied to more than shoes.

So he developed the idea for TOMS Eyewear

For every pair of glasses purchased, TOMS would help give sight to a person in need. One for One.

TOMS Eyewear has restored sight to over 400,000 since 2011.

TOMS Roasting Company has helped give over 335,000 weeks of safe water since launching in 2014.

How about TOMS Babies?

In 2015, Blake founded TOMS Bag Collection. Its mission is to give training to skilled birth attendants. And distribute birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby.

As of 2016, TOMS has supported safe birth services for over 25,000 mothers.

It can happen to you

TOMS humble beginnings happened unintentionally. And quickly blew up.

Or as John Candy used to say “It blowed up real good.”

And if you follow some simple principles of tribes your simple idea can blow up too.

So let Blake’s blow up be an example to you

Have the guts and the discipline to follow an idea that truly changes things. No matter how and when they come to you. No matter where it might take you.

Here are seven principles that will help:

1. Explosive ideas are on-purpose

Because purpose is all about changing the world for the better, it needs to be at the apex of the organization’s decision tree.

It needs to give everyone the same view and understanding of why they are doing what they are doing.

The key to doing this well is making sure your organization’s strategy reports to your purpose. Not the other way round. And even more importantly, to make that purpose the focus of the differentiation and change that the idea is focused on.

What if your organization has no purpose beyond making money? Well, then an idea that goes beyond that will be difficult to sell internally.

One solution is to abandon your idea. The other is to find, define and culturalize an organizational purpose. And then align your idea with its cause.

Or, even better, be like Blake and totally reinvent the category.

2. Explosive ideas focus on their tribe

The key question behind every compelling idea is, who is this for?

Is it for people who are interested, or those just driving by? For the informed, intelligent, educated part of the world? For those with an urgent need? Is it designed to please the lowest common denominator?

What if your idea is trying to delight the people who are about to buy from a competitor because he’s cheaper than you? What compromises will you need to make to compete? Are they worth it?

What if your idea is trying to delight a group of people with a passion for a cause? How committed are you to being different and extraordinary to only them? Are they worth ignoring the petty demands of the rest of the world?

3. Explosive ideas serve tribe members

Members of a tribe share a common worldview.

They see the world working in a certain way. And they seek to change it from what they believe is wrong to what’s right.

The change they seek forms a unifying purpose that brings them together and affects their view of the world.

Successful ideas have empathy with the tribe’s worldview and address the change they wish to see in their world.

4. Explosive ideas contain a compelling story

Embedded within the idea is the story of making things better for the tribe. Eventually, that story becomes the idea in people’s minds.

It is a story of distinction. Of changing things for the better. Of overcoming the status quo. Of helping.

It is the story that will define and propel the idea. But only if it is a story worth sharing. Not just an idea.

5. Explosive ideas drive movements

They change things.

But they won’t change anything without a tribe. A tribe that is committed to the idea as a tool that helps them change what they believe needs to be changed to make a difference to their world.

The tribe uses the idea to support their cause and drive a movement. In other words, creative ideas need to be able to connect people. To focus their actions around sharing the idea and making it real.

Leaders connect tribe members by helping them do things for the cause that the tribe wants or can’t do for themselves. They do that by developing ideas that help. Not by saying things.

6. Explosive ideas need to be made real

In the beginning, ideas are usually abstract. But they can’t stay that way for long. To survive, they eventually need to be made real.

With the help of an apple and a story and a name, Isaac Newton made gravity more than an obtuse idea.

And by making gravity real, he gave us power over the concept. The power to imagine, relate, describe, discuss and accept.

Ideas overturn conventions, create new understanding, change people and disrupt the status quo. But they do that only if you make them real.

7. Explosive ideas are demonstrated by tribe experiences, not messages

Leaders inspire and empower movements by creating experiences that make the idea real. And by making it easy for members of the tribe to tell stories about their experiences. Not by messages

They understand that purpose, tribes, and helping are the things that create a movement. And those things are bound together by the tribe’s experiences and stories. Not by marketing campaigns.

There are no truly innovative, easy ideas

If you believe and have the ability to see things from your tribe’s point of view you will develop ideas.

But having an idea is only the start.

Because ideas are babies

The key thing is to have the courage and tenacity to nurture them with these seven principles until they can stand on their own in the world.

These are principles that visionary people like you can use to carve out a unique place in your tribe’s hearts and minds. And create a movement for good in the world.

That’s how truly great ideas blow up.

Blow them up real good

So until next time, may the good Lord take a liken to your idea and blow you up real soon.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s your take?