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Cracking The Who You Show Your Work Code
On the importance of showing your work to the right people to get the success the work deserves; It's not enough to find an audience for your work. It is important to find the right audience.
This is Maverick J welcoming you to Leverage Thoughts where ideas are shared every Sunday at 9am BST. If you enjoy reading this post, like, share and subscribe. If you want to contact me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed
— Honore De Balzac
In 1883, Nikola Tesla was sent by his employer - The Continental Edison Company- to fix the problem that had occurred in the powerhouse and electric lights installation at the railroad station in Strassburg. This presented him with the opportunity to test out his theory of a two phase alternating current motor encompassing his rotary magnetic field discovery [at that time, everyone who had tried to make an alternating current motor used a single circuit]. He set to work and tested his theory in the power plant. He was successful in starting up the power generator with this new system. This meant that Tesla now had a novel electrical system that utilised alternating current.
Tesla knew from past interactions that the executives at the Continental Edison Company had no interest in his new invention; They had continuously refused to listen to his theories on alternating current. This led him to speak to his friend M Bauzin, mayor of Strassburg, about his new invention. They both agreed that Tesla will host an event to demonstrate his invention and that Bauzin will invite the wealthy citizens of Strassburgers to witness and possible finance his invention.
The demonstration was very successful from a technical presentation perspective but a failure from a business perspective. Not one wealthy person invited to the event showed any commercial interest in it; A technical invention that would soon revolutionise the field of electricity. Was this as a result of Tesla not selling his idea/vision to the right crowd?
In the New York Times bestseller- Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, Kleon talks about the idea of happily sharing one’s work.
Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine. These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties; they’re too busy for that. They’re cranking away in their studios, their laboratories, or their cubicles, but instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, they’re open about what they’re working on, and they’re consistently posting bits and pieces of their work, their ideas, and what they’re learning online. Instead of wasting their time “networking,” they’re taking advantage of the network. By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can then leverage when they need it—for fellowship, feedback, or patronage.
The objective of Kleon’s book is to provide a manual or rather process for self promoting one’s work. He touches upon the most common questions artists and creatives want to know regarding promoting their work. Some of the questions are:
How do I get my work out there?
How do I get noticed?
How do I find an audience?
After his unsuccessful demonstration at his event in Strassburg and other issues at the Continental Edison in Paris, Tesla set out in 1884 for New York, America where he spent the first year working for Thomas Edison, a proponent for direct current. Edison had no interest in Tesla’s ideas in alternating current and Tesla wasted no time trying to convince Edison. Tesla spent most of his time working under Edison on the design and improvements of dynamos. Tesla left after a disagreement with Edison.
In April 1887, Tesla got into partnership with Mr A K brown to form The Tesla Electric Company. Mr Brown and his friend provided the capital Tesla needed to expand upon his ideas. Within months of finally having capital to fund research and development and having creative autonomy, Tesla produced working units which encompassed his ideas in alternating currents and power generation. He filed patents for all his inventions which got him noticed by other professionals in electrical engineering.
He was then invited by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers on May 16, 1888 to give a guest lecture. This was the lecture where Tesla presented the theory and practical application of alternating current. This was the lecture that prompted the world to take notice of Tesla. This was the lecture where some of the founding principles of electrical engineering were established. This was the audience Tesla had needed all this while. An audience that took him many years to get too.
The lecture given by Tesla to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers is what I like to call the who you show your work code(WYSYWC). Doing brilliant work is not enough; Showing|demonstrating brilliant work is not enough. What is enough is showing your brilliant work to the right people. When your brilliant work is shown to the right audience at the right time, it triggers action for the next stage of the work. In Tesla’s case, it was the commercialisation of alternating current by George Westinghouse of the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburg. When your work is shown to the wrong people, the merits of the work are typically dismissed.
Edison had no interest in alternating current because Edison had a commercial interest in the success of direct current. His invention, the incandescent electric lamp, depended on direct current from his point of view. So Edison was the wrong person for Tesla to show his work too. The executives at The Continental Edison also had no incentives to listen to Tesla's ideas. The wealthy citizens of Strasburg probably had no knowledge of electricity to appreciate Teslas demonstration or they had opposing financial interests. Westinghouse on the other hand was a man of vision and had nothing really to loose by betting on Alternating Current.
In life, we tend to sometimes believe that once we have done great work and even shown great work, that the bright lights of Vegas will come illuminate us like the sun illuminates the earth. What a painful and unproductive belief!!! What became obvious to me from observations in my career, life and others is that you must intentionally choose who you show your work to. Who sees your work is incredibly important. Always remember WYSYWC.
A few principles for WYSYWC are:
Building and showing your work to an audience is not the goal; The goal is to showing your brilliant work to the right audience.
Does my audience understand my work from a technical or business perspective?
Does my work disrupt the business model of my audience?
What are the first to fifth order implications of my work?
Does my work solve an immediate problem now or sometime in the future?
Who exactly is my audience?
What language does my audience speak?
Who benefits from my work?
My WYSYWC concept is what I like to classify as a living thing; It’s evolving concept which means that as I gain more clarity, I will expand upon it in due time on Leverage Thoughts.
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