My job title seems to spark a lot of interest and a lot of questions asking, “what is it do you ACTUALLY do?”
Today, my goal is to quantify what this role entails and help spark creative thoughts on the potential benefits of adding a role like this to your firm.
While I was given the opportunity to develop my job title, I cannot take full credit for originality. A quick search on LinkedIn and you can see a few of them. However, how I define my role may be considered different. Alchemy can be defined in a couple of ways:
- as a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination
- A power or process of transforming something common into something uncommon or exceptional
Add that with the definition of concept:
- an abstract idea, a general notion
We begin to see how the role of Concept Alchemist could be defined:
- Taking an abstract idea and bring life to it, creating something exceptional
This describes my current role beautifully. Our CEO hired me to bring her ideas to life, starting with creating our Nucleus program. However, when we start exploring all the things involved in a role like this, we discover many other areas that this role helps create or “transform something common into something uncommon.”
Bridging the gap
A role like a Concept Alchemist helps to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs that are at a macro level view and operations or project managers that are at a micro view. Entrepreneurs are often really good at generating ideas and creating the long-term vision of where a firm is going but can struggle with execution and sustainability into an ongoing business. While good at figuring out the details, project or operations managers tend to get lost within current structures and processes and lose sight of the overall vision.
This role keeps all departments or teams aware of moving parts and provides the proper support to keep the momentum forward. It is not just about having an excellent vision; it is about building a culture with A-players who want to see that vision come to life and the need for my role to successfully translate strategy or vision into actions that the team can understand and implement. Doing so also helps in preventing departmental silos that cause communication breakdowns.
Drives initiatives forward
A concept alchemist should inspire innovation through creative alternatives to what others thought was constrained into the box they feel they must stay in. Not only do I look at all the moving parts and see how they fit together, but I understand and identify areas that, if we make adjustments in one, how it will affect another. I clear out the obstacles to help our teams thrive while empowering them to look for solutions. To be clear, this drive is just as crazy as a roller coaster – filled with constant highs and lows but always forward. A Concept Alchemist can do this because they understand the business’s entirety and how each component combines to create an entire system without getting lost in the daily operations.
With all these moving parts, it is essential to maintain open communication with the CEO/Dreamer/World Dominator/Department Head, whomever your person with the vision may be. Once I help them understand which ideas are realistic in getting implemented, I can develop that path to creation. That path to creation involves understanding what resources are needed, who needs to be involved, and building out timelines. I become the Dream-Maker or the General to World Domination, that right-hand collaborator and executioner. This relationship is the most important one. If this fails, it creates a domino effect, and things begin to fall apart.
One of my colleagues told me once that I am “the painter’s paintbrush. Without the brush, it is impossible to create the picture on the canvas and bring it to life.” That is an excellent description of this type of relationship.
This does not mean simply saying yes to every idea. It is, however, being able to communicate when something is out of scope. For example, there are plenty of ideas, but maybe there is not enough capital, or we need to evolve our team before moving forward, or if we take on this idea now, it will negatively impact another project, or maybe it is just a terrible idea. Being able to communicate those points openly helps foster continued success.
Being a chameleon
The Concept Alchemist also becomes a chameleon of an employee. Someone with the ability to adapt to change and be a valuable asset with a swiss army knife of skill sets at their disposal. No matter the department or group, I can fit right in and bring the exotic to the mundane. I am currently across several different departments for four different brands. Yet, I am the glue that fits it all together because I am taking my strengths and utilizing them in areas people would not think to. For example, my ability to build and maintain relationships, effective communication, and understanding of our long-term vision help me succeed as our marketing and brand manager for all of our brands. In addition, my ability to train and develop learning materials helps me build our content for editorial pieces, internal training and coaching, and presentations. Although this list of responsibilities would look different for each firm, this is where I currently need to be involved, and this will grow/evolve/change as needs and goals change within the firm.
Being a chameleon also feeds into my personal need for constant challenge and growth. This is because I do not stop with the knowledge I already have; instead, I am continually learning and improving and bringing that knowledge to drive continuous improvement. Thereby making me an even better asset with a wealth of knowledge and understanding. Which means all my random knowledge also makes me a great asset on a trivia team.
Whoever is in this role needs to understand the need to place humans first and work as a mentor, coach, and people developer. I personally enjoy developing people, helping them be better. I manage our internal coaching program to foster that development so that our team will grow in a way meaningful to them, whether they stay at our firm or continue their journey elsewhere. By doing this I build trusting relationships, helping drama-proof situations, and make sure everyone can work together without any throat punching.
With the pandemic and change in how we all work, this becomes key because it helps keep things positive and boosts the team when needed. I notice the overall health of our culture and our humans while working to stay mindful of areas to help and foster growth. This has helped cater some internal development focused on mental health and dealing with sustained stress levels, so our team has the support they need.
How does one do this?
Now the big question – how do I take these ideas and make them real? How do I know what needs to be done? The answer is that I don’t always know. However, for me, there are some things that help convert ideas to reality.
Having a design thinking mindset
I wrote an article on how this mindset can be helpful for different firms, but essentially design thinking is a different approach to searching for solutions, a way to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly visible. This mindset involves curiosity, empathy, a challenge to innovate, and seeing the big picture.
Even scientific studies show you cannot find solutions if you only focus on the problem or issue. You need to acknowledge the problem, situation, issue, whatever it is, and then move the focus to what the answer or solution could be. To that point, I also tend to start my process backward by seeing where we need to be to have the idea a reality and then what we need to get there. This also helps to simplify things because you do not get bogged down in tiny details and making things more complicated than they need to be.
This is not an ego thing, but rather you will not be able to take action until you believe you can handle the consequences of your decisions. Most people fail in bringing an idea to reality because they hit obstacles and challenges that become more than they can handle and no longer want to be accountable. That losing of belief in yourself will kill the project.
Knowing you do not know everything
Yes, I am a Jane of All Trades, but I do not know everything about everything. I will google in a heartbeat, but I also reach out to my network or look to the different people within the company and use their strengths and knowledge.
Understanding that risk is your friend
While working hard helps to make ideas real, the most fundamental commitment is to assume risk management because risk is normal.
Connecting the dots
Everything is connected to something else; what starts as a core idea can mature into something more significant when you connect other tenets that naturally associate with the idea along the way. So never stop connecting those dots.
Find your unicorn
When looking for someone to be your unicorn, there are specific skillsets needed, and while we highlight some of those, keep in mind that this role does not need to be filled by someone directly in your field. For example, I am not an accountant, and while I have learned some things about the industry, you do not want me touching any of the books! Not being in the industry can benefit because they can bring in a fresh and vibrant vision. So do not discount the possibilities. That being said, the individual you would look for does need to have particular abilities.
Executing the plan
Once the idea is shared, they can run with it because they see the bigger picture and put a strategy together to produce results. They are also your first collaborator, your right-hand to bounce ideas off of (no matter how crazy), and not belittle any of them; instead, give realistic expectations.
Strategically manage projects within available resources
They understand what you have and can prioritize plans accordingly.
Makes sure every team or department aligns and contributes towards your big goals or vision.
Helps build processes
This is across systems, automations, workflows, SOPs (standard operating procedures).
Ability to build your team, manage them and hold them accountable
Help to hire good people right from the start, hold them accountable, and eliminate unproductive behavior.
Ensures that the message is clear, consistent, and effectively conveyed to the team/departments.
Other attributes can come into play based on what would be needed for your firm. For example, maybe your firm needs a gatekeeper or someone to handle and resolve conflicts. But, in the end, they are responsible for outcomes because if they win, you win.
At the end of the day, the idea of a Concept Alchemist is someone who gets things done, often when others cannot. Where is the value of managing multiple initiatives at once if you never actually finish any of them? There is strong personal and team accountability that is held, along with the ability to see issues and roadblocks and resolve them to continue the drive forward.
So my hope is this gives you a base to find your doer, that special someone that can take your vision and create something exceptional.