In 2006, Tony Robbins said, “ideas are the commerce of the 21st century.” Eleven years later his comment is still spot on. We have been fed a steady stream of ideas through the growth of TED talks and everyone’s ability to vlog their thoughts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more.
Every day, TED talks receive over one million views. Each month, YouTube has over one billion unique visitors. For anyone under the age of 40 (and plenty over that age), information is more readily acquired and shared via video. The same is true for our workplaces. Each day, 30 million PowerPoint™ presentations are shared -- many, if not most, via video conference -- and 15 million people hours are spent each day consuming presentations. There is no question that we are sharing ideas to enrich, improve and advance our societies, but I can’t help but wonder…
How many ideas are being left on the cutting room floor because of an overt fear of communicating them?
You’ve no doubt heard that 75% of the population has a fear of public speaking. This fear tops every list of phobias, surpassing death. For some, it is crippling and prevents them from ever speaking in public, let alone share their novel ideas. If that’s the case, we must consider how many great ideas never make their way to mass consumption -- how much innovation we lose because the people with the ideas are afraid to speak up.
Daniel Pink, one of the most influential management thinkers in the world, and prolific author and speaker suggests in his book To Sell is Human that everyone is now in sales. (Check him out on YouTube.). He theorizes that while sales have changed over the past 10 years and consumers can pretty much research and buy any product online, one in nine workers are still in sales, totaling some 15 million people. However, Pink suggests that the other eight workers are also selling -- not objects or items, but ideas and techniques. We are all persuading, negotiating and pitching. This means that even the mere act of cajoling your child to get their homework done is a sales process, requiring influence, negotiation, and an ability to communicate effectively.
With this in mind, we must ensure that everyone’s voice can be heard and that all great ideas are shared. It is paramount that we create a world where people can speak confidently and competently in order to participate in the commerce of ideas. And, as another generation enters the workforce -- one that is severely under-skilled at communications (56% of them acknowledge that their communication skills are sorely lacking) -- we must ensure that we have tools that match the needs and styles of these learners, our future leaders.
In order to survive in the 21st century idea economy, we must be able to communicate our ideas. Who knows what we may miss from the 75 percent who are simply too scared to speak up.