By Mathew Kennedy
Think about your last last road trip….. You’re driving down the road and on your right you’re seeing an enormous field, and in that field, you see a herd of cattle. Let’s say it’s your first time, it can be quite an experience. The cattle look similar to one another, and they tend to move together in a group almost as if their thoughts are all from the same source. More often than not, all of the cows look incredibly similar. Maybe the behavior of the cows is representative, considering when you really think about it, we’re all far more alike than we are different (but that’s a topic for a different blog post).
Imagine looking over that field of cattle. Your eyes shift trying to find a place to focus as they scan over an endless sea of cows. Then you spot it. You rub your eyes to make sure that they aren’t deceiving you. But, it’s still there. Something purple. You focus in, and you see that right there, in the middle of the field, is a purple cow.
You chuckle with amusement, the more you look, the more you are amazed about that purple cow. Your eyes are inexplicably drawn to it, you look away for a brief second and then look back, the purple cow is the first thing your eyes search for and are drawn to. It has awakened you from the trance you were in. It stood out from the mundane and has become the focal point of your attention.
Innovation and great ideas are like purple cows. They may seem unassuming at a glimpse, not particularly noteworthy, but then like a purple cow you look again (you have to rubber neck it.) You might be reading this and thinking that the analogy is a simple one. “Purple cows and great ideas stick out like a sore thumb when you compare them to fields of regular cows or regular ideas.” The analogy is a simple one, there is more that goes into it than meets the eye.
The beautiful thing about great ideas is that you don’t have to work too hard to get them noticed. Ideas and content that is truly great has a magical way of getting discovered by itself. This is especially true in the 21st century. People are combing the Internet day and night, looking for that next big thing. People now have access to a tool that they can use to get themselves discovered. Now, more than ever, people are finding out that if you want to get your ideas discovered or if you want to make a splash, the best way to do this is to craft something that is great. If there is an idea out there that is truly unique and truly special, it will stand out like a purple cow. Humans have an innate ability to notice something different and notice something special in the world around them.
Creativity is the ability to take a complex idea and create something that represents that idea in a way that other people can understand it and draw their emotions from it. So many people out there have great ideas, but due to busy schedule, laziness, or fear of rejection, these ideas will never live anywhere besides their own head. Producing a creative project that you’ve worked for a long time on is a vulnerable task, but also quite fulfilling. Creative people are the ones who take their ideas and find a way to make something that represents them in the physical world. Articulation is key. The more complex an idea or an emotion is, the harder it is to truly express it in its purest form. This is where people believe that talent comes in. The people that are reigned as “creatives” are really people who are good at articulating their emotions and feelings and have a good enough work ethic to get it manifested into a physical form.
This advice is applicable to people whether you want to become the next Elon Musk or the next Bill Gates. If you really want to make a difference and change the status quo, one good way to do that is to work at it until you have something that is truly different and truly special. It’s tough to be patient. You may think what you have is good now, and that if you wait too long, someone is going to eventually steal the idea, and with it, your payday. One of the best qualities a lot of the biggest people in the world have is patience. They know that what they have is special; so special, that there is no immediate risk of anybody coming to steal it from them. So, if you can really hunker down and work, and not emerge until you have a polished and unique product, the results will come.
Standing out is not all that you need to do. You also need to stand out in a way that builds momentum. You can have a great product or a great idea, but it needs to build momentum into action. Maybe you need people to read your great new magazine and then subscribe. Maybe you might have a great new product that you need people to buy. There needs to be a clear consumer journey for people to make sure that they know what to do with their energy once they are exposed to your idea. If you don’t have a natural “next step,” then you will have an infamous “fifteen seconds of fame.” People will appreciate your work, but they won’t know what they can do with their energy to help you out to do more good things.
Unless you live in Wonderland, there are probably not any real “purple cows” out there in the world. But, they do exist metaphorically. Purple cows have been presented to us in many different shapes and forms throughout the history of humanity. And, they will continue to be presented to us. We just have the not-so-daunting task of spotting them when they arrive.