Being an "Out there person"

Ted pointed me to a report that profiles the “out there person” that has been showing up in organizations recently. The report says that the “out there” folks are more likely to:

  1. Value fame as an “asset”
  2. Willing to share certain types of sensitive information on the web
  3. Believe it is appropriate to criticize their organizations on the web
  4. Believe that “organizations need to be more transparent to succeed”
  5. Believe “there’s no harm in openly discussing the work I do inside my organization with others”

Obviously I agree with all those points. However, the fame part I think is a temporary thing. Folks who are open and transparent today are getting famous for their candor but in another couple of years this candor will be the norm. Folks like Scoble when he was Microsoft (he’s now at Podtech), and Jeremy at Yahoo, were viewed as shocking two years ago, important this year, and in two years they will simply be the norm. That’s how trends go.

Mark Cuban deserves a lot of credit for this trend as well. He’s always been blunt and to the point. Some folks don’t like it, sure, but most folks love it. And, at the end of the day you have to be who you are. Cuban is Cuban–that’s it. He will tell you to your face that something is stupid, say it on his blog, or say it on ESPN. He will also listen to what you say and if he was wrong say “@#$%#$%, I was wrong about that one!”

So, I would add to the list another two points. Out there folks are:

  • #6: Willing to listen to all sides of a debate openly
  • #7: Willing to change their position quickly and without remorse

As Ted points out, I brought this brutal honesty to AOL and that was always the plan (Ted, Jon MIller, and Jim Bankoff very clear with me to “go for it” and not pull punches). A year after I was there folks were routinely “mixing it up” on the group listsrvs and the heroes started to emerge. The folks who cared, the folks who were engaged, and the folks who could keep up chimed in–those who couldn’t stood on the sidelines.

These were flat out sparring matches and we debated major topics. One exchange that went for what seemed like 50 comments was a debate surrounding Netscape’s video hosting. (As in should Netscape have it’s own video hosting or should it just dump folks to AOL’s video service). I argued that Netscape should have it’s own video services even if there was some overlapping pieces. Others thought I was crazy and doing duplicate work (shades of peanut butter–yes). Of course, in business most answer are not right or wrong–they are 50, 60, 70, or 80% right or wrong.

That debate however let everyone know who was smart enough to be in the debate. Some jumped into the debate with weak arguments and got smacked down real quick–as they should be! If you’re not able to jump in the ring and defend your position don’t jump in the ring. It was great–AOL was alive with debate and deep thinking in an open platform where *anyone* could chime in–your title didn’t mean a thing. Everyone involved got a serious education–including myself. After that debate the video group and I became fast friends, and the collaboration level only *increased*. Debate is great.

Anyway, the report goes on to say: “In summary, your ‘Out There’ people are the ones who are:

  1. Fast followers
  2. More flexible
  3. Open communicators
  4. Aspire to greatness
  5. Looking for new, innovative ideas
  6. In short – your future leaders

I agree with these as well. If your putting yourself out there you have to be flexible and open, and just by the fact that you are open you’re gonna find innovative ideas. I will add the follow to the list. “Out there” people are:

  • #7 Passionate
  • #8 Lovers of intelligent debate
  • #9 Don’t take themselves to seriously

Frankly, I couldn’t run a business any other way. The only way to really get things done is to be out there. There is so much noise in the space, so little attention, that you’re best bet for building great products is being totally honest about what you’re doing and letting folks help you.

Read/Write web has some additional thoughts.