During my time in D.C., a senior colleague of mine constantly used the term “putting a stake in the ground.” What he meant by it was to put yourself out there, to have an opinion. By doing so, you invite people to give you theirs.
It’s like a show of good faith. By telling others what you think or believe, you’re more likely to evoke the same from others.
For context, I was a facilitator working with college grads and students. The topics I covered ranged from workplace dynamics to the politics of capitalism. Knowing what the students believed was vital to creating a lesson plan best suited for them. In other words: To get them where I wanted them to go, I had to know where they were.
I didn’t always agree with what the students believed, and they didn’t always agree with me. For example, on the topic of creative destruction, I remember one student vehemently disagreeing with me on it its utility. “You can’t just tell people that they should get new jobs and move on.”
I agreed with him on this point. But I also reminded him that creative destruction, while potentially harmful to some in the short-term (job loss, automation), brings down the prices of goods and lifts the standard of living for nearly everybody in the long-term.
These kinds of conversations can only happen when we know where the other person stands. Putting a stake in the ground establishes a point of view. It says, “this is what I believe, now, how about you?” It forms a sort of mutual respect and trust.
When we know what companies believe and value, we either identify with them or reject them outright. You might be thinking, “But why would we want customers to reject us?” Being rejected is better than not being noticed.
When you have a point of view, a voice, you create a conversation. Whether people agree with you, love you, or revile you, you can’t dismiss the fact that a conversation is taking place. The alternative is to be safe, faceless, and invisible. In today’s competitive marketplace, that’s no longer viable.
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