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business tips for culture makers 130 read outside your niche

Business Tip for Culture Makers #130: Read Outside Your Niche and Ask “What if…?”

(A) Ask “What If…” Rather than “How?” and

(B) Read Waaaaaaaaaay Outside Your Niche

Often going directly at the problem I’m trying to solve, and looking for how-tos and manuals, doesn’t help.

Asking “how?” actually forecloses possibilities.

It usually means I’m going at solutions before fully considering the problem AND without fully imagining the audacious vision I’m trying to manifest.

I learned the what-if/how distinction from Dr. Michelle Mazur — who learned it from Tara Gentile — both of whom have said that when you’re imagining audacious outcomes, a better question than “how?” is “what if…?”.

Asking “how?” when you’re trying to accomplish something that you’ve personally never done before usually means you’re going to adopt someone else’s pre-made answers (and someone else’s pre-made consequences and problems — which is especially tricky when we’re trying to invent a new paradigm and a new culture rather than reproduce the same ol’ same ol’ ).

Asking “what if…?” is especially important for culture makers because it means you’re going to get creative and imagine new possibilities and apply a collage of carefully selected tactics that don’t reproduce patterns and outcomes we’re trying to dismantle.

So sometimes asking marketing and business people questions or reading marketing and business books doesn’t help you solve your culture-making marketing issues.

Unless they’re specifically making contact with the bigger picture and building out their systemic analysis, their pre-made patterns might not help you reimagine the future and find methods for creating it.

That’s why, to solve some of your most pressing biz, marketing and culture-making challenges, it helps to read outside the marketing and business genres. Like, way outside the genre.

The four most intellectually and practically significant books that I read in the last three months — ones that have had a big impact on my business, social media, client relations and marketing — are not business or marketing books at all.

Instead, they’re about liberation.

They’re about conflict and communication.

They’re about power.

They’re about how bias gets coded into our daily interactions and the systems we build…and how to do it differently.

They are:

  1. Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
  2. Conflict is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulman
  3. Living in The Power Zone by Cedar Barstow
  4. Technically Wrong by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Emergent Strategy helped me rethink **everything**. Now I have concrete images in my head that help me see the difference between the old paradigm and the new one.

Conflict is not Abuse helped me contextualize the negative experiences we’re having in FB groups and online…which meant now I have tools in my bucket for trying to create new outcomes and even for handling interpersonal conflict.

Living in The Power Zone woke me up to the fact that I’m underusing my own power **as are most of my clients**…and that’s just as much a misuse of power as abusing power is. It also gave me a vocabulary  for power that has been life-altering. This is massive. I was a poli sci major yet until I read this book, I seriously did not have a vocabulary for personal and culture-making power. Now I do. (Thank you to Holly Truhlar for recommending it to me.)

Technically Wrong helped me see that the tech we use is built on the same worldviews we’re trying to oppose…and that the systems we’re building in our businesses are important for the politics and futures we’re trying to create. (Thank you to Sandy and Jennifer of Namastream, a feminist-owned online teaching platform and their podcast, Soulful MBA, for singing the praises of this book in their Instagram feed so I was intrigued enough to read it.)

Best marketing books ever…because they’re not about marketing.

Instead, they’re about culture-making.

They’re about how to navigate real relationships and steward our influence for good…

…and have practical tips about how to navigate our social media landscapes, group dynamics and real-life relationships in ways that create justice between us and for us.

(Brown calls these “Protocols” and my fave is her wildly compassionate “Protocol for Haters”)

In other words, these books are possibilities that ask “what if…?” so that we’ve got some sideways manuals for culture-makers.

Recommend with all my heart.

#BusinessTipsForCultureMakers #WeAreTheCultureMakers #CultureMakingBooks #CultureMakingManuals

PS This #BusinessTipForCultureMakers is part of a series. You can find them here.

PPS And if this is the kind of thing you like to read about, I send a weekly email called The Sunday Love Letter that you might like, too. You can subscribe, here (note: from time to time I’m going to send you emails about my  feminist marketing services — thank you for your eyeballs, attention and support!).


Kelly Diels teaches culture-making entrepreneurs & creators how to develop a substantial body of work that changes EVERYTHING -- your life, your industry, our world. (AKA Thought leadership for people who cringe at the phrase "thought leader".)  Her Sunday Love Letter can help you surface *your* unique method, step by step, week after week. www.kellydiels.com/subscribe

#intellectualproperty #infopreneur #WeAreTheCultureMakers

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