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Developing An Idea Using a Community

A shift needs to take place to get academics thinking about how they can reverse engineer the traditional journey of developing an idea by building a “mainstream” community around the work and not the other way around.

Academics are often expected to produce original and impactful ideas that can advance their fields and contribute to the public good. However, developing and disseminating these ideas can be challenging, especially in a competitive and fast-changing environment. Traditionally, academics have relied on peer-reviewed journals, books, conferences, and grants to share their work with other scholars and stakeholders. However, these avenues can be slow, restrictive, and inaccessible to a broader audience. Moreover, they can limit the feedback and collaboration that academics need to refine and improve their ideas.

How can academics reverse engineer the traditional journey of developing an idea by building a mainstream community around the work?

In this essay, I argue that a shift needs to take place to get academics thinking about how they can reverse engineer the traditional journey of developing an idea by building a “mainstream” community around the work and not the other way around. By “mainstream” community, I mean a group of individuals who share a mutual concern for one another’s welfare and are connected to a common vision. These individuals can include other academics, practitioners, policymakers, media, and the general public. By “reverse engineer,” I mean deconstructing or dismantling a product to learn how it works and how it can be recreated¹². In this context, the product is the idea the academic wants to develop and share.

How can academics reverse engineer the traditional journey of developing an idea by building a mainstream community around the work? I suggest four steps that can help:

  • 1. Identify a problem or question that matters to you and your potential community. This can be based on your personal experience, curiosity, or passion. Existing literature, data, or trends can also inform it. The problem or question should be relevant, meaningful, and solvable for you and your community.
  • 2. Test and share your initial ideas with your community as they unfold. This can be done through various platforms, such as blogs, podcasts, newsletters, social media, webinars, or workshops. The goal is to get your community’s feedback, input, and collaboration as you develop your ideas. You can also use these platforms to learn from other sources that can inspire or challenge your ideas.
  • 3. Refine and improve your ideas based on the feedback and collaboration you receive from your community. This can involve revising your assumptions, hypotheses, methods, arguments, or implications. It can also involve incorporating new perspectives, evidence, or insights that you gain from your community.
  • 4. Disseminate your final ideas to your community and beyond. This can be done through traditional academic outlets, such as journals, books, or conferences. However, you can also use alternative or complementary outlets, such as podcasts, newsletters, blogs, social media, webinars, workshops, or media appearances. The goal is to reach a wider audience and create more impact with your ideas.

By following these steps, academics can reverse engineer the traditional journey of developing an idea by building a mainstream community around the work and not vice versa. This can have several benefits for academics and their communities:

  • – It can increase the quality and relevance of academic ideas by exposing them to diverse feedback and collaboration.
  • – It can increase the visibility and accessibility of academic ideas by reaching a broader audience and using various formats.
  • – It can increase the impact and sustainability of academic ideas by creating a sense of belonging, engagement, and support among community members.
  • – It can increase the satisfaction and motivation of academics by allowing them to pursue their passions and interests more flexibly and creatively.

In conclusion, I have argued that a shift needs to take place to get academics thinking about how they can reverse engineer the traditional journey of developing an idea by building a mainstream community around the work and not the other way around. This can help academics overcome the challenges of developing and disseminating their ideas in a competitive and fast-changing environment. It can also help them create more value for themselves and their communities.

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