the choice to contribute

The choice to contribute

The Choice To Contribute, Dilute or Pollute

Why is it that the same idea that will inspire some people to make the choice to contribute, will be the very same idea that motivates others to scorn or ridicule?

The ongoing rise of the sharing economy is one such example of this… take Uber for example.

  • There are many car owners who have embraced this as an opportunity to make use of their vehicle to earn extra money
  • There are many people willing to contribute by being a passenger… and then…
  • There are others, including a number of taxi drivers, who are not only opposed to ride sharing, but are actively protesting against it.

So what is it about ideas, particularly ideas that disrupt or change the status quo, that seem to make them so polarising?

Using the example of the sharing economy, the premise is, that you take something you have spare e.g. time that your vehicle isn’t used (Uber), or spare rooms in your home (Airbnb), and you convert that into something you want more of.

The fundamental idea of the sharing economy is attractive to many people, and because of this, it is here to stay… but the opposition to it does point out the problem with great ideas, and why not everyone is keen to contribute.

So what is the problem with great ideas?

Well perhaps it lays in the fact that a great idea will take ground that isn’t neutral…

You see, the issue with a great idea, isn’t in the quality of the idea, but in what must make room for the great idea.

For example, perhaps you think being fitter is a great idea… yet it feels hard to make it happen, because to get fitter, you need to displace something… i.e. move!

In needing to get moving, you must make a choice

  1. Move more and get fitter
  2. Continue as you are
  3. Oppose the decision and look for ways to do even less activity.

There’s no problem with the idea of getting fitter, but rather in making the space to make it happen… so in failing to make room for it, we deny contributing to making it happen.

the choice to carry an ideaReferring back to the ride sharing example of Uber, the choices are either to:

  1. Contribute as a driver, rider, or advocate of the idea
  2. Do nothing different, perhaps hoping it’s a fad that goes away
  3. Advocate against the very idea of ride sharing

Making the choice to contribute or…

So, no matter what the idea, I believe the choices are typically the same: Contribute, dilute or pollute.

The great thing is, we do have a choice, and there are times we will come across ideas that we feel compelled to either support or destroy, but the key thing is to acknowledge the choice we are making.

Let’s look a little closer at the options…

The choice to pollute:

When we choose to pollute an idea, it is an attack on its very existence…

There is also a distinction to make in what actually pollutes an idea… for instance, constructive criticism or a different can contribute to the strength of the implementation of an idea, and enhance its overall benefits. In this light, with the idea of ride sharing, some of those opposing the idea, are actually raising concerns about implementation… the pollution then, is those who then jump in and ridicule ride sharing, without understanding the actual idea behind it. By polluting the actual idea, it promotes resistance to the idea, that can restrict how well it is embraced by others.

This is important for us to realise when we’re the carrier of the idea, and we face opposition.

It is good to understand what is really happening… as it may not be personal, it’s just that your idea has come across someone who stands to lose something by your idea, feels threatened by it, or mistook a valid concern for a reason to attack the entire idea.

Be ware of those who are constantly attacking one idea after another… they probably shouldn’t be the people you share your ideas with, unless of course you like pollution.

The choice of dilution or choosing to delay making a choice

For many ideas that are yet to achieve their potential in providing the benefits they could bring, dilution can be a real danger.

Ideas can be diluted through lack of focus, the inertia of the status quo (we don’t naturally head toward discomfort), self-doubt and fear of the unknown. Whether it be a new invention, a business concept, health or fitness goal, New Year’s resolution, or any other worthwhile endeavour… anything that reduces the potency of seeing the idea become reality, can be a form of dilution.

Sadly, much of the dilution can happen in the idea carrier themselves… perhaps more on this another time…

The choice of contribution

Just as the choice to oppose or ignore an idea are real, so is the choice to contribute.

The great part about contribution, is that gives momentum to positive change, at times fuelling the seemingly impossible. Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPrize foundation, often says “To make a billion dollars, all you have to do is help a billion people.” In the context of contribution, it is encouraging to realise that even a $1 contribution, can have significant impact when combined with many like-minded dollars.

Expanding contribution through collaboration

Increasingly, there is an encouraging trend towards collaboration… as this provides enormous momentum to driving positive change, and propagation of worthwhile ideas. The genius of collaboration, is in its ability to expand the pool of contributors exponentially, in short time periods.

An example of this would be, if I had someone come to me with an idea for a business, that I could not immediately see the value of, and perhaps even a few obstacles for. At this point, I could choose to attack the idea (pollute), or question the viability of the idea (dilute)… these responses may be understandable, just not overly useful.

However, if I trust contribution and collaborationthe person bringing the idea has good reason for pursuing it, why should I pollute or dilute the idea just because I don’t have the inclination to pursue it?

In this case, I’m not exactly going to put my hand up to be part of the project (and it would be foolish to do so, as I would likely only dilute the effectiveness), but there are still some very useful ways I could contribute.

The contribution I can bring in this case, could be through some useful questions to try and understand the idea, thus helping the idea carrier to better articulate the idea. If I am aware of someone who would be useful to assessing viability, getting it launched, or becoming a future customer, I can create a referral.

Seeking contribution for your own idea

When you’re the one carrying the idea, you’re likely going to come across a range of polluters, diluters and contributors.

The first key to converting an idea to reality, is to be honest about your own dilution and pollution effects. If there’s a niggling voice telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do it, seek to answer this first. At this point, getting a second opinion from a trusted contributor can be useful (getting an opinion from a polluter can be fatal). Once you’ve got yourself sorted and you’ve decided that it’s time to act, go find some contributors…

When seeking contribution, be clear about what you’re looking for. Are you looking for a joint venture, an investment, a customer, promotion, market research, moral support, or a referral?

Once you know what contribution you’re after, make it easy to provide it. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be, and remove the barriers for entry. E.g. if you want a referral from someone who may not directly appreciate your idea, don’t try and force them to understand it, just ask for the referral in a way that makes sense.

Most of all, make it fun to contribute, be thankful for the $1 contributions on the way to the billion dollar idea.

Try and see the constructive feedback contribution in what feels like pollution, and try to remain aware of the natural tendency to dilute your own effectiveness.


To the contributors…

As for me, I’m pro-contribution… we live in exciting times, with brilliantly creative ideas bringing positive impact at an increasing rate. To this, I choose not to pollute, I am aware of the dangers of dilution, and am thrilled by the opportunity to contribute.

What choice will you make?

How about the contribution of a comment? I’d love to hear your thoughts… whatever you choose to contribute.

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