Want to make an impact? Are you trying to instigate change on a societal level? Do you agree that we should leave the world in a better condition than we found it in?
If you do, you have two options to create mass change. They are not mutually exclusive, you can do both, but one or the other should be your primary focus.
The two strategies for implementing change are top-down and bottom-up.
Influence the influencers. If you can touch the executives responsible for the direction that an industry goes in, if you can reach the speakers and authors and thinkers and artists who influence the direction of current thought, you can create massive change.
Gain the trust and attention of the tens or hundreds of people who make the big decisions, and in turn, you affect the lives of millions of people.
One by one, inspire and teach the younger generations and the people who don’t sit atop the established hierarchies. Teach the people who are too young to know the established rules, too young to worry about being wrong, too young to be afraid of the status quo and too inexperienced to realise how momentous the task of changing it is.
Gain the hearts of the people with nothing to lose and everything to gain from a disruption in the current climate.
Both approaches have their merits and their drawbacks.
For example, top-down means first, discovering who the real influencers are, and secondly gaining access to them, claiming a chunk of their already overburdened time. It also means reaching a very small, very select group of people, many of whom may not actually want to make change.
Bottom-up doesn’t require access to a small group, or the passing of some criteria. But it is loaded with way more risk. Say you try the top-down approach. You can’t break into the circle and make the necessary connections. What have you lost in the process? Some of your time? Some of your resources? Not much.
But if you do the bottom-up approach wrong, you can set many people down an erroneous path. Some could misinterpret your message. You could distort perceptions, alter people’s vision of reality for the worse. You could start a snowball that becomes an avalanche which has an impact you never intended or foresaw.
You could also combine the two.
You could work on the bottom-up approach for years and then leverage that influence to slip into the hierarchy you’re trying to bring down.
Or you could gain the trust of those sitting at the top and then switch on them, using your accumulated wealth and influence to maximise the impact of your bottom-up efforts.
The combinations in which you can blend the two are infinite. But, whichever you decide upon, these are your two primary strategies to enact change. Bottom-up or top-down.