• by Henry Butman

What is an Idea Platform?

Ideas are not independent entities—they exist in conjunction with other ideas and within schools of thought that are themselves defined by paradigms of thinking; they coevolve with tangential ideas across disciplines and develop symbiosis with ideas across disparate fields. An idea lives in the “ideaplex,” an ecosystem of ideas with a dizzying array of relationships and associations. While the genuinely new idea is hard to come by, we are constantly tinkering with the warp and weft of the ideaplex, strengthening associations here, weakening relationships there, and forging new connections that produce innovative insights and influence how we think and act.

A platform is, at the most basic level, a place to put an idea, and all ideas start on a shelf in someone’s head. That is where the idea stays unless its thinker tries to put it somewhere else, to test it on other platforms, to find one that not only holds the idea in the right light and at the right angle for public viewing, but elevates it to be seen from distances that span traditional cultural and corporate boundaries. From there, iterations of the idea—as applied and adapted by others—rise on other platforms and become forces of influence on their own, flowering from the original germ.

What platform is right for a particular idea depends on how the idea is best expressed and most effectively communicated. Can it be captured succinctly in an article and be featured in a journal like Harvard Business Review or Nature—platforms for highly-reputable thinking in business and science, respectively? Is it better explicated with a compelling visual presentation and a thoughtful talk, as embodied in the Ted and Tedx platforms? Or does the idea require a deep and intimate dive, rounded by narrative, research, and analysis over 250-pages of a book?

Achieving influence by way of an idea is as much about the quality of the idea itself as it is about the platform, by which the idea can either be buried or given the light and water it needs to sprout in the world on its own.

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