Not long ago, Bruce, the shark from the movie Jaws, was fully rebuilt: new jaw, new teeth, new paint, the works. He had lived at the Universal Studios lot from 1975 to 1990, and then ended up at a junkyard, where he survived for nearly 30 years, propped up on two big poles. Now, thanks to the work of Greg Nicotero from “The Walking Dead,’ Bruce is back to his former glory.
After all this refurbishment, we could ask whether Bruce is really Bruce anymore. Most of the original Bruce is gone, replaced by new wood, new plaster and new paint.
But of course, he is Bruce. What makes him Bruce is that we see him and think “that’s the shark from Jaws!” The thread over the last 50 years is the idea of Bruce, and not a physical collection of wood and paint.
When we create new things, especially new products, we can lose sight of this essential fact. It’s easy to wait for some threshold of “realness” before we allow an idea to cross the threshold from concept to product.
For example, years ago, I was working with a team that needed to come up with a better fundraising pitch than, “we do great work, please support our organization.” We wanted to offer a product: a specific initiative, backed by a defined amount of capital, that would make a specific set of things happen. It would have a closed group of funders who would be an integral part of what we were trying to do.
I remember how I felt after we’d written all these ideas down and I went to a first meeting with a potential funder: like a total fraud.
This thing, I felt, wasn’t real yet. It was nothing more than a bunch of ideas on a piece of paper. Until it wasn’t.
In that meeting, it came to life: through the shared agreement, between two people, that we were going to do this thing, and the commitment that implied on both sides.
That coming together transformed a collection of pieces—for us, not wood and paint in the shape of a shark, but a set of ideas on paper in the shape of an initiative—into something real. Through the act of developing and sharing this idea, we created what became a very true story and a very real, very successful, multi-million-dollar initiative.
This is the truth that any impresario knows: that her job is to create the central story that others can be part of; and then to take the steps that make this story true through enrollment of the right people.
The story isn’t the afterthought. Just like it’s the idea of Bruce that makes Bruce real, your new idea, product, promise, it’s also real. It doesn’t need any sort of blessing or formal baptism: take it into the world, and decide, together with others, to make it happen.
Through that decision, you bring it to life.