Since I was a kid, I’ve had this creative bent of sorts. Ideas would just flow into my mind at the randomest times. Sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes on the playground at school, and often during class when I wasn’t paying attention.
Despite growing out of those habits, the onslaught of ideas that flowed through my mind never ceased. It has been fun to entertain them over time, but eventually they became overwhelming. My mind would race at 100km an hour over the randomest things. “What about this? What if they did that instead? How about ____?”
Eventually, I had too many ideas in my head and no idea what to do with them. So, a few years ago I started writing. Most of what I wrote was professional, on topics like communications or productivity. Other ideas I started copying down elsewhere.
Even after beginning to write, and writing down my ideas wherever and whenever I could (mostly on napkins, sometimes in a text document), I still felt a bit overwhelmed. So I figured I might as well do something with them. Hence this article.
This article is basically a bunch of ideas I have thought of in the last 2–3 years. Nothing revolutionary. But I think the ideas are interesting, and even if they aren’t feasible, perhaps they’ll spur your own ones. Feel free to look through this list and see what you like. Or, close it and forget about it entirely. I’m not your boss.
Also, you may find ideas that already exist in some capacity. If they do, feel free to leave a comment and share it.
- Mastermind groups are odd concepts, but can be valuable in practice: especially when they’re used by newer staff who are hell-bent on improving in some capacity (I assume that is most of you). It would be good to see them return, but with a focus on integral skills that are applicable in various scenarios depending on your field (I think you call these “transferrable” skills). Some ideas for topics to build mastermind groups around: advising/consulting, research, public engagement, or internal communications. Personally I think these would be more beneficial if they’re made up of more junior staff, as each can bounce ideas off of each other, hold each other accountable, and share what works vs. what doesn’t.
- A newsletter or content series on the “mechanisms that shape higher education” would be interesting. Universities and Colleges operate on odd dynamics of part-business, part-service, and part-politics (IE: funding). I think a deep dive on the subjects of power, process, and progress in Higher Education would be valuable to read. And it may offer inspiration to the few that would like to make a difference in this space.
- A job position dedicated specifically to topics like reputation management, data analysis (of public engagement services like website & social media data), user surveys, social listening, etc., would be pretty helpful to more organizations. While these responsibilities do exist, they are often tacked on other roles. Having a dedicated position that can dive into these insights may be valuable.
- A guerilla marketing campaign, where a web page is printed out and posted all over the city. The print outs would say: “if your page isn’t interactive, it’s basically a photo”. The idea is to encourage people to think about how important the user experience is when engaging with online content.
- *A Communications Manifesto that outlines a set of principles for communications professionals to work by. I see a lot of discussion online about new cool tactics to use when engaging with the public, but rarely a discussion about the fundamentals of what works. (Note: the ones I have seen spend way too much time obsessing over “copy”, which is all fine and dandy, but copy is a bit of an old term that doesn’t fully apply to the digital reality we find ourselves in).
- A framework for professional development/personal branding: Defined Skill Area, Defined Subject Matter, Defined Personality Style. Basically: What skill(s) do you want to be known for? What subject matter do you want to specialize in? And what style do you want to have when engaging (or not engaging) with others? For example: Social Media, Community Management, Social. You would likely be known for your expertise in all things social media, have a depth of knowledge on how best to manage, engage with, and coordinate a community, and be outgoing enough to want to collaborate on projects with new partners and share knowledge.
- “Digital Whitepapers” is a fancy term for an idea I had regarding knowledge accessibility. Writing papers that break down complex scientific subjects into accessible knowledge is helpful when dispelling myths and influencing positive behaviour. Yes. this already exists in some capacity (usually research distributed by the organization or institution). But it would be a great initiative to integrate into schools to give students the opportunity to expand their skills. Let’s be honest, schools aren’t great at making their research accessible to the general public. This would be a great opportunity to improve public relations while developing fundamental skills for students. Research and communications are transferrable, right?
- I think there needs to be more support and resources for young people who have to experience the loneliness of transitions (from highschool to post-secondary or post-secondary to the “work world”). I’m all for personal journeys where you figure things out, but for so many students (especially lower income kids or first generation students) these transitions can be brutal. Some kind of service dedicated to addressing these problems can go a long way in helping tackle issues of mental health, depression, and related subjects at a source.
- I find that tutors are very valuable for students looking to improve academically, but not as accessible to students who come from lower income backgrounds. If there aren’t already organizations that offer these services at cost (or free), then creating some may be good. Typically these services cost a decent dollar. And hey, that’s fine. But it does create a barrier. Perhaps an organization that accepts donations to fund tutors that serve low-income communities.
- Pretty meta, but having a document where you write down both your ideas and your accomplishments can go a long way when it comes to your professional development. It gives you a list of projects to (hopefully) lead, and a track record of what you have done. Nothing new, but I don’t hear of people doing it that often.
- Building off #10, I have noticed a pattern when it comes to individuals who are placed in professional rankings or received awards (EG: 30 Under 30’s or University Leadership Awards). Winners/recipients typically create an initiative they end up leading. Usually these are organizations/groups, sometimes services, and every once and a while projects that have a set end date. Whatever they do, the common variable is that they created something new (rarely do they make further progress on a pre-existing initiative). I have my own challenges with that model, which I can get into another time. But, regardless, if you’re looking to make a splash, it may benefit you to consider finding something that doesn’t exist and making it exist. People love new after all.
That’s my list for now. Having read through it 14 times, I realize the ideas aren’t that novel or exciting. Maybe it’s just because I’ve sat with t0hese for so long they don’t seem that cool. But, everything about creativity has taught me that you get your best ideas from seeing others. It gets the ball rolling, so to speak. Hopefully this list has helped you do that.
Take care everyone.
*I’ll likely write this myself anyways, but I would love to see what guidelines you come up with. If you write something, send me in it.