Whether you are a single entrepreneur, a high-level executive, a creative mind or a researcher, making an Impact is one of those important things which can change your life. And others’.
The question is, where can you start and how can you build an impactful strategy to get you where you want? In this episode of my Impact Series, I elaborate on the basics. At the end of the day, all it takes to make a difference is a problem to solve, a cause to defend, a beneficiary to fight for, and a commitment to keep moving on… Interested? Keep reading.
Making an Impact: You Need a Cause to Fight For.
Impact Series – Episode 2
I decided to write my Impact Series to try and explore the concept of ‘Impact’, and to build some personal thoughts as to how everyone could work on making their own impact out there.
In the first episode of the Series, I elaborated on a definition of the term Impact (aim for Smashes, Bangs, and Wows) and on the idea that the only impact you have is actually the impact you make.
I concluded this first bit of thinking & writing with a suggestion, i.e. that the first step towards having and making an Impact is actually to realize that changing our methods and models is key. At the end of the day, awareness is the cornerstone of empowerment, isn’t it?
If you look at the discussion with a critical eye, however, the biggest problem with motivational and inspirational topics is that, well, they remain purely motivational and inspirational. Unless you start thinking practically about how you can turn them into something palpable, of course.
Said differently, my first thoughts on whether you and I can make a difference mean absolutely nothing unless I also explore the question of how to make it happen for real.
In this second article, I am therefore adding the next stone to the edifice with a simple question: what are the basics, and how can we use them to start building up some Impact?
Starting from the basics.
Starting from the basics is important but there’s a catch! There are two types of basics.
One type is very operational. As I wrote in Episode 1, there can be no Impact without action, and action requires an action plan. Hence, for those who want to make an Impact, the important thing is to build an Impact strategy and to do it in a way that actually makes it impactful. More on this in another episode.
The other type of basics is much more theoretical but, truth be told, it is the fundamental sine qua none to whatever you want to do next.
Long things short, the idea here is that there can be no future Impact without a very specific set of factors. You need a problem to solve, a beneficiary for whom to fight, a cause to defend, and a deeply-rooted passion or commitment to keep you moving.
Yes, I know. That’s a lot. But read the previous paragraph again and think about it. Can you really expect to make any type of Impact without those basics?
1 – A problem to solve.
The starting point when thinking about making an impact is to spot a problem which needs to be solved.
Interestingly, there are two ways to look at the problem aspect.
In some circumstances, the problem is a genuine problem. There is a visible difficulty and there is hard-to-overcome trouble for people or organizations or all types. Simply put? There is a pain-point, and that pain-point gives you an opportunity to make an impact through alleviation and relief.
But your problem can also relate to a more positive set of circumstances. Take Elon Musk’s Space-X ships for instance. What is the key motivation behind the adventure? Saving taxpayer money? Not the point. Sending people to space? Sounds much more motivating to me…
Said differently, finding a problem to solve can be a matter of alleviating (relieving from) a major difficulty, but it can also be a matter of innovating to push existing boundaries to make the world progress. Spotting a pain-point is a helpful impact indicator, that’s for sure, but we really need to start thinking creatively.
2 – A beneficiary for whom to fight.
Merely putting your finger on a problem is not going to be enough, though. A problem isn’t an actual problem if there is not beneficiary to fight for. You are unlikely to have an Impact if nobody is affected by your hard work, right?
If you run a business, whatever you sell needs to solve a problem for someone, so your beneficiary could typically represent a genuine market segment.
If you are a Non-Profit, the money you spend aims at improving a situation for a community, wherever it is and whatever its size. And the same story also applies if you are a researcher, an academic, a civil servant or a medical doctor.
Call your target a client, a customer, a patient, an end-user or a beneficiary. Pick any term you like, but in all these cases, the raison d’être of your organization is to fight for someone. The question is, who is the ultimate beneficiary of your fight?
3 – A wanted Impact.
Having a cause to fight for is just the beginning, however. Ultimately, your allies, your champions, your supporters and your funders will want more than a reason to fight. They will also want to know what Impact you are planning on making.
The point is important for several reasons.
One, knowing the Impact you want to achieve means that you make your fight more practical and more tangible for people. For instance, saying that you want to protect the oceans is a good cause, but explaining that your Impact will consist in literally taking five tons of plastic away from the sea makes your story much more tangible.
Two, and in a related manner, having a tangible Wanted Impact means that you will be able to develop test and measure mechanisms along the way to determine how much progress you have made and, of course, how much work remains to be done before you get to your Impact.
Problem -> Beneficiaries -> Cause -> Wanted Impact -> Allies.
Having a problem to solve and a beneficiary to fight for means you possibly have a cause to defend and an Impact to achieve. But such a chain also has the merit to help you pave your way to your next steps, particularly when it comes to finding allies.
At the end of the day, and whatever you do, having a purpose is the best way to turn people into allies and to give them a reason to help increase your results exponentially.
Do you work on your own and try to make a difference by yourself? In such a case, having a cause and a Wanted Impact- beyond a mere problem – has multiple implications. One, a cause give you the fuel you need to persevere and last on a long-term basis. Two, a cause is likely to be the best way for you to communicate, touch people and find partners or even advocates.
Are you part of a team? Having a cause to defend is even more important! A cause means that all the members of your team share a common objective and a common belief that some change is needed. Eventually, a common belief acts as cement and turns into a common language, which is the key element to help to fuel the group.
In essence, a powerful cause will always have an inspiring and galvanizing effect which will exponentially increase your ability to make Smashes, Bangs, and Wows.
A cause creates a deeply-rooted sense of commitment to keep you moving.
Let me summarize my reasoning here. One, your problem is your starting point. Two, a problem without a beneficiary isn’t a real problem. Three, a problem to solve and a beneficiary to fight for will give you a cause to defend. Four, a cause is only the beginning, and what really matters is your ability to define what is the Impact you plan to achieve.
Eventually, the combination of these four elements will prove useful (and efficient) when it comes to developing partnerships and finding allies of all sorts.
Impact happens over time, and chances are that without a strong and deeply-rooted commitment you won’t make much of a difference after all. If you find a way to commit, however, the circle is complete and making an Impact becomes a rational undertaking.
From Problem to Impact: the importance of putting things in writing
Last but not least, you should always try to put these things in writing.
As I always say, nothing is clear until it’s written. A dream is a fantasy until you decide to act upon it. And it only becomes a project when you start planning your way into it. So, take the time. Think. Overthink. Question. Test. Measure. Decide. And write it down.
I know, some people will call this BS, and I can understand why. After all, why bother with finding a problem, turning it into a cause which helps someone live a better life? Right?
The next step is very straightforward. Define your own basics, and built your Impact case study until you have something serious and satisfactory.
Again, think in terms of Smash, Bang, and Wows here, and remember that, at the end of the day, what you have in mind doesn’t matter. Whether you want to help people around you, build a business, conduct life-changing research or send people to the moon (and back, hopefully), the process is the same.
The question you can ask yourself is whether there are some problems and innovative ideas which really deserve your long-term attention and investment, both in terms of finances, time and efforts?
If the answer is yes, is there a beneficiary for whom your actions can make a difference? If yes, is the thing important enough to make a cause out of it and to commit to getting results? Last but not least, are you ready to commit to making an Impact out of that?
The point is, you can’t have an Impact without a strongly rooted commitment. If your goal is to change the status quo or to make a difference, then getting the basics right gives you the engine you need to make your impact happen.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Try to go ahead, see for yourself, and get in touch if you need a push!
About Antoine Martin (Ph.D.)?I am an Impact Thinking advocate and strategist. My journey with Impact began in Hong Kong in 2018 when I was tasked with developing an Impact strategy for academics. Since then, I have developed a framework for Impact Thinking and coached academics, entrepreneurs and business teams on what Impact strategies can bring to their projects. I regularly write, speak and consult on the topic, please get in touch for more information!