Why — and How —You Should Test Your Creative Ideas
Before you feel anywhere close to ready to go public
Before you feel anywhere close to ready to go public
I teach audio storytelling and podcasting. Typically, people assume that means all the things: story structure, interviewing, equipment, recording, post-production, distribution, and so forth. Which, of course, is absolutely true.
But we also unearth challenges that are unseen and unheard, the concerns that students and creatives either hide or are even unaware of.
Two of these that plague so many people passionate about a new idea or creation are these questions:
1: Does anyone need what I have to say? Does my message matter and if so, to whom?
2: If my idea is wildly different from my public persona — the professional identity I’m known by and comfortable with — what will the fallout be if and when I share it? My student Julie Withrow, an impressive, accomplished marketer, calls this second problem an “identity shift.” I believe #identity shifts are necessary for growth but are also scary. Talk about stepping outside our comfort zones.
If we don’t attempt to answer these questions, we can stay stuck indefinitely. (See: all things Brené Brown and #vulnerability.) To answer them, however, requires risk.
Enough with the theory, you’re saying, tell me how!
Use your followers as a laboratory for experimentation
Julie Withrow is a superb case in point. For at least a year, she wanted to produce a podcast for moms of neurodiverse daughters. But she didn’t. Julie specializes in B2B marketing, so her “normal” followers are corporate marketers and communicators.
Although through her own lived experience and a strong gut feeling told her that her nascent podcast would succeed, she wasn’t certain — after all, that’s the definition of “new product,” right?
Moreover, there is that identity shift I mentioned. Could Julie’s traditional followers be turned off as she shows an entirely different and far more intimate side of herself in public? That question hits all of our “survival buttons.” And the #belonging ones, too.
Julie tried to think of social media groups where she could safely test her idea. But as she told our private podcast support community, “I was feeling like I don’t have a group of moms to share my podcast idea with to get feedback.
I started thinking about who I know who would understand what I’m trying to create (a podcast for moms raising neurodiverse girls) but I was coming up empty handed.
Sadly it’s not the sort of thing you run by those who don’t have experience with neurodiversity because they just don’t get it.
So I was staying stuck.”
Rocket fuel: Your assumptions may be wildly wrong
Then she had a breakthrough, one that took just a little bit less bravery. After ensuring she wasn’t breaking any rules against self-promotion, she posted her idea in a social group of moms raising neurodiverse kids —people like herself, women who she imagined could be her “perfect” listeners.
She told her own story of being a mom of a daughter who is both gifted and has learning disabilities or cognitive differences (a situation called “twice exceptional” or 2E.)
She asked her scariest question — would it be useful or exclusionary to make this show about moms and daughters rather than about all parents and kids? She asked questions like: Would you listen? Do you need this? As a mom of a neurodiverse daughter, do you wish there were more resources out there specifically about girls?
“To help clarify where I’m coming from, I’ve been contemplating starting a podcast and possibly writing book for over a year now. I can’t stay stuck anymore, so it’s time to get this out of my own head and into the world. I want to make a difference in the best and most useful way possible, and I really want to understand what’s missing.”
The answers stunned her.
“I’ve gotten lots of support and encouragement,” she told us. But most of all, she said, “The stories that are being shared make me know that I can’t not create this podcast.”
My friend Kari Knutson is a therapist and public speaker on emotional intelligence. One of her mantras is, “Get big out loud, not from ego but from service.” That’s a message that particularly resonates with women, I’ve found. If we perceive our lived experience, our knowledge, our curiosity, and our talents as needed, as benefiting others, then we can “get big out loud.”
“The stories that are being shared make me know that I can’t not create this podcast.”
Learning people need and want what Julie has to offer, and absorbing their unexpected eagerness to share their own stories, was the key for her to unlock progress. To stop being stuck.
And boy, has she ever made progress in just a couple of weeks since then.
Not only has she turned a dream into a real product, but the feedback made her even braver. She decided to share her idea with less-than-perfect groups, those groups of moms who she had believed “just don’t get it.”
Turns out she was wrong. They did get it, in spades. More positive feedback. She encouraged the rest of the students in this Podcast Liftoff cohort to test their ideas. That public laboratory? It’s scary. But it’s also rocket fuel.
Julie’s podcast, “Exceptional Girls: Helping smart but struggling girls feel seen, supported, and celebrated” launches soon. As she says, “Shit’s about to get real 😬 .” And I have a feeling that far more of us will resonate with it — whether this is our specific lived experience or not — than she suspects.
So you feel called to do something new, but you don’t think your idea is ready for prime time?
It’s prime time to share it.
Then go get big out loud.