An artifact is any device, tool or thing that allows us to presence our big idea and bring it to life.
One important tool to presence our big idea is the clothes we wear. In particular, when we wear a uniform.
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Formal and informal
Uniforms come in two distinct forms.
There are the official uniforms as worn by our police force, the military, our sporting teams, the friendly staff at McDonalds and the dreaded school uniform. You know it’s an official dress code when there are specific rules for what and how you wear it, plus there are penalties for not wearing it the right way.
There are also the unofficial uniforms that are worn by people to express their identity as part of a tribe or movement. For example:
- Football fans who may or may not wear the official merchandise
- Goths wearing lots of black
- The suit and tie worn in the corporate world with optional brief case
- The leathers and tattoos of a bikie gang
- The overalls and safety boots of a tradesman.
Uniforms are not just clothes either. Consider the Hipster with his closely cropped and styled haircut and long beard.
There can also be interesting collisions between cultures when the uniform rules of one group clash with another tribe. For instance, the face covering burka is part of a dress code that represents the ideal of modesty in the Islamic religion. In the west, the burqa has been banned in French public schools because it is seen as a religious symbol and in Italy it has been banned under the Anti-Terrorist act. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Power of Uniforms
Uniforms can play an important role in bringing your big idea to life in everyday situations. Here are a five ways that uniforms that presence your manifesto:
- Uniforms are a way to express your identity – For instance, what does your favorite t-shirt say about you? Is it a brand name shirt such as Calvin Klein or Prada? Is it a plain black one that says you’re too cool for brands? Or does it have a message proclaiming ‘World Peace Now’.
- Uniforms connect you to your tribe – For instance, wearing your team’s colours at a football match is a show of belonging. Also, consider what impact wearing shorts would have at your workplace. Would you fit in or stand out?
- Uniforms make it easier to perform – For instance, a runner puts on their shorts, t-shirt and running shoes rather than their slippers, dressing gown and pyjamas.
- Uniforms prepare you for what’s ahead – I’ve heard several professional speakers who have a special suit they wear only for their presentations. When they pull out their black Armani ensemble they anchor themselves into ‘presenter’ mode.
- Different uniforms mean different things – In the military you are presented several different uniforms to wear. For instance, there are your battle fatigues and your dress uniform for special occasions.
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Do you need a uniform?
If you’re building a tribe or a movement a uniform might be a powerful way to presence your big idea. Here are nine clues as to how you can do this:
What’s the point? – Start by thinking about the role the uniform will play. Is it to improve performance or is it symbolic? The meaning and story behind your uniform choice will be as important as the item of clothing chosen.
- One thing – It doesn’t have to be a full head to toe costume. It can simply be one item or one accessory. For instance:
- A t-shirt with your motto on it
- A clip on badge – think Pink Ribbon for breast cancer awareness
- A hat – a beanie worn by football fans
- A scarf – another sporting fan tradition
- A wristband – Livestrong
- A temporary tattoo
- Colour – how important is colour to your big idea? Livestrong adopted the colour yellow, breast cancer the colour pink and the gay movement have their rainbow. Having a simple colour means the idea can be translated more easily across different uniform choices.
- Adoption rates – The easier it is to use the more likely people will wear it more often.
- Lead the way – You need to be willing to wear it yourself. Ideally, you already do.
- Stand out! – What is the statement you want to make? Are you trying to stand out in the crowd or simply unite like-minded folks? Do you want to scream at the top of your lungs who you are or are you content to whisper?
- When and where? – Consider when and where your uniform is to be worn. Is it something you wear everyday or only on special occasions? For instance, your wedding dress.
- Rituals – Related to the previous point, is the wearing of your uniform part of a regular practice or habit for your community? For example, dressing up to go to your weekly football game.
- Branding – If you are a solo operator and you are your business, consider that what you wear is a uniform for your brand. It might not be the same set of clothes each day and it will have a consistency to it. Take a moment to consider how you can sharpen this edge of how you present yourself.
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COMMENT: What’s your uniform? How can you start to build a suite of artifacts that presence your big idea?