This week I received my marks for the courses I took this semester as part of my Master of Media in Strategic Communication. My marks were not quite as high as last semester, which I am okay with, because I now feel like I have a solid handle on this new area of knowledge. Between studying at University, teaching myself additional Strategic Communications skills, now working at Speakeasy Marketing Inc., and continuing to learn from Liam and Andy at the Auscast Network and Steve Davis from Talked About Marketing, my learning curve has been very steep and refreshing.

I love the fact that I can now confidently shape and present a message to suit a particular audience, and that I can explain why I am doing what I am doing, as well as now knowing how to work with other professionals to get it done. I have learned and practiced so many individual things this year that I can’t help smiling and shaking my head when I start listing them off on my fingers.

Even though the best single word I can use to describe this year for myself is tumultuous, one insight stands out in sharper focus than everything else.

When I decided to study a Master of Media in Strategic Communication, I knew there was one specific question I wanted to answer for myself: why do so many brilliant ideas that could be applied to improve the world languish un-championed and unsupported outside of the individuals who create them and small circles of people in the know?

This question gnawed away at me throughout my career as a university educator. Whether I was sitting in a seminar listening to a presentation from a brilliant visiting scholar, or teaching undergraduates incredible ideas that I had learned the week before, I couldn’t shake the creeping realisation that these brilliant ideas were going nowhere. A few people learned them, a few people talked about them, and they remained trapped in seminar rooms.

For a while, I wanted to believe that better arguments would transform the fate of brilliant ideas, but this only worked in the stuffy seminar rooms that function as suspended animation tanks for intellects and ideas. Reasoned argument nearly works within the academy, but something else drives decision making and action in all other situations.

My most significant and uncomfortable insight from studying Strategic Communication for a year is that pain and desire are the most predictable and reliable drivers for decisions and actions.

You can ask an individual to reason there way to a decision or an action, but this process of reasoning will almost always lose out to an emotional experience of pain or desire.

Once a painful thought dominates the Human mind, narrowing its focus to future loss and/or suffering, reasons role is reduced to overcoming the pain point and removing its influence from the future. Whatever the individual can imagine to banish the pain will become the focus of their desire. If there is no obvious pain point on their current horizon, then they will focus on accumulating more desirable things that have banished pain in the past.

Resolving pain and achieving desires always requires reasoning, but the reasoning is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Brilliant ideas only become tools for active minds if they are immediately useful for resolving pain and/or achieving desires, and will be ignored as entertaining curiosities if they don’t fulfil an immediate and tangible need.

Consequently, if your brilliant idea can’t get traction with an audience, it is either because it doesn’t fulfil their present need to resolve a visceral and emotional drive, or they can’t see how it would have helped with a previous significant experience.

Either you need to identify your audiences’ pain points and desires and reshape your message to suit their needs, or you need to find a different audience who need to implement your idea right now.

In either case, your brilliant idea will only become valuable and worth implementing for an audience if it can help them to fulfil a deeply felt need.

Working out what causes your audience pain will quite likely cause you pain, while working out what they desire will likely curb your own desire. Nevertheless, if you want your brilliant idea to improve the world, you need to focus on how your idea can resolve immediate pain and achieve desires.

If you need help to work out who your audience should be, or how you should shape your message in relation to their pain points and desires, then please get in touch. I am glad that I now understand why so many brilliant ideas fail, and would be pleased to help you avoid having to watch your brilliant idea fail.

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