• Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: Stand Out by Dorie Clark | Become a Thought Leader


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3 Big Ideas

  1. Becoming a Thought Leader is now a great way to "Stand Out" across your industry. Done well, it can enable you to do purposeful work and live the life you want.

  2. Anyone can become a Thought Leader. There is no secret magic and even with popular topics, you can stand out by putting disparate elements together and presenting ideas in a new and meaningful way.

  3. There is a structured process which can help you be a successful Thought Leader. This includes finding problems and building a following.

2 Most Tweetable Quotes


Developing a Big Idea doesn’t require genius. What’s required is the ability to ask good questions, to challenge assumptions, and to listen to the gut instinct that alerts you when the rest of the world is overlooking something.

Curation can be one of the best ways to become a trusted Thought Leader. Curating rarely requires a graduate degree or special licensing. Instead, it takes a willingness to spend time, a genuine interest in the field, and a desire to help others make the best decisions possible.

Toby's Takeaways


How do you become a Thought Leader?


This is a question I've been exploring recently and the book "Forever Employable" by Jeff Gothelf provided really great insight. I was eager to learn more so when I saw Stand Out by Dorie Clark recommended by Jeff I was eager to read.


Stand Out is a very useful and practical book. The ideas and principles shared throughout the book are not groundbreaking. Essentially the approach is to find problems people want solving, create your niche, experiment with solving problems, tell people about your ideas and involve them in a community. By following these steps you'll have a Thought Leadership platform. It is from this platform that you can really start to build a business and go "professional".


A challenge in my own Thought Leadership journey is that it often feels like there are no new ideas to talk about. There are so many "Thought Leaders" I often think my ideas just adding more noise rather than actually providing value. This book helped me realise that even if you talk about an established idea or topic, you can still bring a fresh perspective. By combining ideas from many fields, making it specific for your audience and packaging in a new way, you can add value.


A good example of this in 2020 is Joe Wicks. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Personal Trainers on Youtube yet he has managed to become a leader in personal fitness. By following the steps within this book it shows that you can become a Thought Leader even within the most established areas.


Big Ideas Expanded:


Too many people believe that if they keep their heads down and work hard, they’ll be lauded as experts on the merits of their work. But that’s simply not true anymore. To make a name for yourself, you have to capitalize on your unique perspective and knowledge and inspire others to listen and take action. But becoming a recognized expert is a mysterious and opaque process. Where do the ideas come from, and how do they get noticed?


Featuring vivid examples and drawing on interviews with Seth Godin, Robert Cialdini, Daniel Pink, David Allen, and other thought leaders, Dorie Clark explains how to identify the ideas that set you apart, promote them successfully, and build a community of followers. It’s not about self-promotion. It’s about changing the world for the better while giving you the ultimate career insurance.


There are two key steps to the approach:


Step 1 - Finding Your Breakthrough Idea

  • Find The Big Idea

  • Develop Your Expert Niche

  • Expand Current Thinking by Providing New Research

  • Combine Ideas from disparate fields. Find the connections other people haven't

  • Create a Framework, an easy way for people to consume your idea

Step 2 - Building a Following Around Your Ideas

  • Build Your Network

  • Build Your Audience

  • Build a Community


To be a successful Thought Leader you need to find real problems that people need help solving. The ideas you share need to be valuable and often this value is in helping someone overcome a challenge.


To find these problems, thought leaders are driven by asking questions that others have not, and question assumptions others take for granted.


It's common to think there are no new problems to solve. What is surprising is that almost any field can be transformed by challenging basic assumptions. Most systems reward those who follow the rules, not those who break them. So when you challenge these basic assumptions it can lead to big breakthroughs.


Developing a Big Idea doesn’t require genius. What’s required is the ability to ask good questions, to challenge assumptions, and to listen to the gut instinct that alerts you when the rest of the world is overlooking something. You need to be able to see differently, and that means not just mixing disciplines, but becoming a person whose perspective is so broad, it defies categorization.


One way to add value is helping people prepare for the future—to provide real solutions to upcoming challenges—people will clamour to get your help for these future challenges. To do this Thought Leaders should research trends across industries. What is the next new big challenge people will be facing? What are three trends shaping your industry? Are they short-term or fundamental? How would you describe them to an outsider unfamiliar with your field?


What you need to do as a Thought Leader is to find your niche. Finding your niche is not an exact science, and you often won’t know in advance what will work. If I had waited for the right idea, I’d probably still be waiting. Instead, experiment often to learn which one people cared about.


Readers will trust the established experts and have no reason to turn to you, so you need to find a way to stand out. Experimenting often will help you build an understanding of your followers.


One way to find people interested in your ideas is to think about who needs your skills or approach but doesn’t typically have access to them.


Curation can be one of the best ways to become a trusted Thought Leader. Curating rarely requires a graduate degree or special licensing. Instead, it takes a willingness to spend time, a genuine interest in the field, and a desire to help others make the best decisions possible. When your message is different—not for the sake of being different, but because your research has uncovered an overlooked story—you’re likely to draw attention.


Even if you have great ideas they won't get any traction unless you build a following. You can do this in three ways:

  • One-to-One: Build a network - Connect with professionals within your field

  • One-to-Many: Build an Audience - Create content and publish it via a blog, social media

  • Many-to-Many: Build a Community - Provide the platform for people with similar challenges to connect

The Thought Leadership path can be winding and dispiriting, so few choose to follow. No industry ever welcome those who challenge its received wisdom, but if you’re willing to risk short-term disapprobation, you can ultimately make a substantial contribution to your field.


Companion Questions:

  • What are the assumptions underlying your field?

  • What questions do “newbies” in your field often ask that get shot down or dismissed?

  • What’s the conventional wisdom about how to do things “the right way” in your field?

  • What do most people in your field think would be impossible?

  • What research project or initiative would—if you successfully undertook it—change how your field operates?

  • What experiences have you had that others in your field most likely have not? How does that difference shape your view of the industry?

  • Is there a way you can differentiate yourself from others in your profession?

  • What is the traditional background of influential players in your field?

  • Is there a way to leverage being the opposite of that?

  • Is there a realm you’re interested in where your skillset is rare or hasn’t been fully utilized in the past?

The Stand Out workbook has many more questions to help you.

©2020 by Toby Sinclair.

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