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From Suicidal to a "Killer" Idea is a work in progress.

First check out this article: LA Times: A Breakthrough Moment for Us Both

I’ve been trying to figure out that episode for thirty years so that not only could I repeat it, but so others could too. Along the way to deconstructing it, I not only discovered what happened that got through to this patient, I also discovered the components of what any idea needs to be a big idea.

But I digress, so back to the episode.

Something happened when I emotionally went inside the world of my suicidal patient and first hand saw and felt what I have since realized was what writers refer to as the “Dark Night of the Soul.”  And it was unbearable.

What it led me to realize is that what that woman would later say saved her life was that I had somehow satisfied what she Needed, Wanted and her Gotta’ Have (or “had to have”). 

In her case she Needed to have a reason not to kill herself, she Wanted a reason to live, but her Gotta’ Have that got through to her was to have someone understand, feel and join her in the hell she was in and then accept that she was neither a bad person or a weak person if it became too unbearable and she “needed to kill herself” to end her suffering.

What enabled me to enter into her world was that I hadn’t slept in 36 hours because I had been going to emergency rooms to consult on patients and my internal (in my mind) defenses were down.  As a result I let go of my professional agenda as a psychiatrist to assess, diagnose and treat patients and instead had my inner personal purpose as a human being to ease people’s suffering revealed to me in its purest state.  By letting go of my professional agenda my mind dissociated from itself and was then driven by a sole purpose to ease my patient’s suffering whereupon I spontaneously went into her world of a living hell, felt her pain as my own and could understand and accept that living in that world without relief was a life not worth living.

That has taught me that “big ideas” are ones that your customer or client Needs, Wants and Gotta Have.

Why are these three important in figuring out your next innovation or big idea?

People don’t do what they Need to do; they do what they Want to do and will beat a path to your door right now if they Gotta Have what you have.

Apple seems to have the formula locked because when you see customers lined up around the block and up all night waiting for the next new iphone what you’re witnessing are people who Need it, Want it and Gotta Have it.

This has been helpful to me because for many years I have written books and articles and blogs about what people Need, but what they don’t necessarily Want and rarely do they Gotta Have.

I have written two books about getting out of your own way (Get Out of Your Own Way and Get Out of Your Own Way at Work), a book on listening (“Just Listen”) and my recent one co-authored with Dr. John Ullmen on influence (REAL INFLUENCE).

Everybody needs to get out of their own way and everybody needs to be a better listener, but few people want to do either.  People may need and want to have influence over people, but few of them gotta have it.

I’m thrilled and have generated considerable excitement in my customers and clients and network of contacts (who might even line up around the block) by three upcoming offerings which will be available in the next couple years:

  1. A book containing a step-by-step method to help people completely recover from trauma and to finally get over it instead of merely coping with it and living a life lacking vitality.
  2. A simple Anger Management Tool that will defuse and remove the anger in people in three simple steps.
  3. A method to break down silos that spontaneously turns “zero sum” departments guarding their turf and competing for resources into enthusiastic collaborators sharing their resources (Congress will love it!).

What these offerings all have in common is unlocking and freeing people’s resistance from their “inside out” much as I was able to unlock and free my suicidal patient from living (not really living) in hell.  And in all three cases, completely recovering from trauma if you've been traumatized, once and for all stopping anger from destroying your life and getting all the competing silos in your company or organization working well together are not just things you need, they are things you want and if they're happening to you, they're also things you gotta' have.

The takeaway for all of you is that if you want to innovate in the right direction or are looking for a “big idea,” make sure that it gives your target market what they Need, Want and Gotta’ Have.

Finally, if you are still unconvinced of the importance of giving people what they Need, Want and Gotta Have, imagine giving them the opposite.  How well is your idea going to go over if intead of Needing it, they have no reason to buy it; instead of Wanting it, they have no desire whatsoever for it and instead of Gotta Have it they feel "Yech, get it away!"

BTW stay tuned for the three game changing offerings above.


Reader Comments (1)

Mark, I had a similar experience to your "A breakthrough moment for both of us." Early in my first year of psychiatric training, I was assigned to care for George. I had just finished my internship and now I found myself in an exam room, alone, with a well educated (pursuing dual PhDs) young man who had just survived a near fatal suicide attempt by toxic ingestion and self-mutilation. One of his cuts was deep enough to require vascular repair. After collecting the history; when, why, how and numerous prior attempts I was scared. I thought to myself "He should be dead. How did he survive this well planned suicide attempt?" I concluded the interview by asking to see his wounds. I removed his dressing and described to him what I saw. The wound was healing well with no signs of infection. The stitches need to be removed in a few days.

We worked together for the remainder of my residency. George made progress in spite of my novice skills as a psychiatrist. As my residency training was coming to an end I found myself wondering about my relationship with George. Three years ago he was severely depressed, drinking heavily and not, in a meaningful way, participating in his care. I asked George, "Why me? Why did you stick with me?" He told me that he stuck with me because I looked under his dressing. I wasn't "afraid" of him. I looked at George's healing wound and normalized it. George's despair was a feeling of being alone and more than worthlessness, he believed he was toxic. I had not seen him as toxic.

In my experience, despair is an individual experience. Suffering is shared despair. I tell people, especially those with chronic pain, that "You cannot suffer alone." As you experienced, despair can reach psychotic proportions. I was simply trying to be a good doctor when I looked at George's wounds. His interpretation was Gotta' Have (not toxic). He needed to share his despair. We suffered. Guiding his suffering lead to us to uncover Needed It (treatment) and Want It (life).

As I read your three "game changing offerings" my first response was "I Gotta' Have" them. I think Big Ideas are more likely to be successful if they ignite the fire, "I Gotta' Have It!" As the idea evolves it can form the basis for Need It and Want It.

November 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeland Dennis
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