How to be First

It’s a characteristic of creative and artistic people that they are often highly capable of intuiting what will come next, what should come next or what people will want next, then making that into reality.  They sense the future and can bring it into existence.  Whether that is due to their insight and intuition, their capacity to see differently, their sensitivity to humanity or their willingness to entertain seemingly nonsensical thoughts or other pure possibilities in their heads while they work things out, is not clear.  It may be a combination of factors, married to determination, will power and the skills needed to take an imaginative thought and turn it into a concrete reality.  There must be some element of innovation and invention going on, but I’ve noticed, over the years, that artistic, creative people bat well above the average in bringing cool new things into the world, first.

Dreaming a wonderful, original, ground-breaking dream, first, isn’t enough.  You have to get it done.  It has to become real.  If the proposed idea really is a first and it’s substantial, or bigger than your own resources allow, you’re going to have to get more resources before you can get it done.  Mostly, those resources are money and people.  Hence, creative, artistic types often find themselves in front of potential investors trying to convince them to part with the money they need to realise the new thing first.

Here’s the problem.  If you are doing something first, there is no data or experience set to draw from to convince an investor with.  It is also a fair assumption that the financier or potential investor will be the sort of person that only deals in data, facts and evidence.  They will want to see hard proof that your proposed idea will succeed, before they commit their resources to your crazy new idea.  In short, if your idea is a genuine first, you will be unable to convince anybody that your idea is sound.  Convincing is impossible because they evidence required cannot exist.  Once it does exist, it will be too late.  Somebody else will have been first, in order to provide that proof.  The opportunity to be first will have come and gone, by the time you can convince an investor with hard facts.

Does being first matter?  I think it does.  Nothing gets changed, invented or improved without somebody doing it first.  Disruptive change is necessary.  Artists and creative people are much better at disruptive change than incremental change, in general.  Being first also lets you define the boundaries, set the agenda and make the biggest splash.  It ought to also give you the best chance at making the most money from the idea, but that doesn’t always pan out in practice.  Imitators, armed with your hard won proof, can often optimise on your strategy and take the lion’s share of the spoils.  But that said, being first matters, because somebody has to be.

So to be first requires resources, but you can’t convince somebody to give them to you, because there isn’t enough data and evidence to make them comfortable about doing that.  In fact, that data can’t exist until it’s too late.  How do you move ahead?

Well, you have to persuade instead of convince.  Persuasion is a different thing.  There is no evidence necessarily required.  Persuasion involves telling a compelling story, in vivid detail, so that the person holding the resources you need is made comfortable in believing that things will turn out as envisaged.  It means you need to establish trust and credibility as a creative artist who possesses an ability to bring dreams to reality.  It means that you have to put on a good show, with a great narrative, some visuals and visualisations, to bring the idea to life.  You have to speak about the benefits of the idea coming to fruition.  You have to convey confidence and self assuredness.  One sure way of destroying the air of confidence is being too willing to sell the rights to the idea, in totality and perpetuity, to the investor, as fast as you can.  Trying to maintain ownership and control actually signals to the investor that there is something worth hanging onto here.  Trying to sell the idea wholesale, or worse, selling yourself as an eager, willing slave, just turns off investors, in my view.  They smell danger.  They smell subservience and helplessness, when what they want to see is leadership, independence and the ability to get things done without their assent, help or reliance upon them.

In persuasion, there is sometimes a need to appeal to ego and vanity, to secure the resources.  Sometimes, the appeal is to altruism, or to sharing the reflected glory of the idea with the financier.  Whatever it takes, you are out of the realm of providing incontrovertible business plans, figures, projections and facts and into the realm of emotions, feelings, desires, self-actualisation and human foibles.

That’s not to say you are fooling anybody, or asking for permission.  Your approach should always be “take it or leave it”, so that the person you are trying to persuade is under no illusions.  They are not at all necessary for the dream to become reality.  The art of persuasion is to allow the investor to understand that they are being given a golden opportunity to be first and that without them, somebody else will be.

What creative and artistic people often fail to recognise is that if the investor says no, that doesn’t mean that the idea is bad, or that you are no good.  It simply means you didn’t persuade them.  Too often, the idea will die with the first refusal, because the dreamer doesn’t realise that the dream is sound, the possibilities are still there and that they simply need to locate and persuade the right resource holder.  You shouldn’t be embarrassed by a lack of proof.  You can’t have the proof.  It doesn’t exist.

The only problem with seeking to persuade potential investor after potential investor and being serially unsuccessful in your attempts is that, in spending time persuading resource holders, time ticks on and the chances of being first diminish.  Choose your resource holders carefully.  They have to be open to persuasion and have the resources you need.

It’s a massive mistake to try to convince somebody to give you the resources you need, when you’re trying to be first and just as big a mistake to choose to approach resource holders that need convincing.  Those are the wrong guys and you’re wasting your time trying to persuade somebody that needs to be convinced.  It’s just as futile trying to convince somebody without the necessary evidence.  Instead, you need to find investors that can be persuaded.  Then all you need to do is work on your powers of persuasion.

That’s how to be first.


About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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