I used to think reputation was all about what other people think of you. Do they think you’re competent? Credible? Trustworthy?
It’s true to an extent, but it’s not the heart of the matter. If you do something just for acclaim, it’s an empty gesture. Artists often face this challenge. As the writer and literary critic Cyril Connolly said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
It applies in all walks of life. Reputation is actually built on consistently doing what you think is right – even if it means people disagree with you sometimes.
As director of TEV Project, a non-profit developing the highways of the future, I’m working on making car-based transportation more efficient and sustainable. I’m happy (and humbled) to be able to say that if you look us up online, we have a good reputation. You’ll find positive coverage from news outlets from Bloomberg to The Scotsman to The Boston Globe. But we haven’t always had an easy time convincing people that a much better highway design is just around the corner.
People have a lot of strong opinions on how transportation could and should improve. In our early days, before formally launching, we sought feedback on the TEV concept from a select group of transportation professionals at a conference. To some it seemed a bit like science fiction. The response was mixed to say the least. We had many people tell us it was a great idea of course, but we also got the unforgettable “what planet are you from?”
We went ahead and set up TEV Project anyway, principally because we believe in TEV – not as zealots, but because all evidence suggests it is really, really sensible! We think it’s the right thing to do. Sticking with it proved rewarding. TEV has scooped a number of prestigious awards, most recently the Smart Transportation Alliance “Innovation of the Year” 2016. The wave of press coverage on driverless cars and dynamic charging has made our area of work much better understood. I don’t think anyone would call driverless cars science fiction today.
This month we are working on a major partnership with a top 200 University. It’s under wraps at the moment but it’s a huge opportunity – one that wouldn’t be possible without a good reputation. Happily this is one example where in sticking to our beliefs, things worked out.
Caroline Jones Carrick is a Director at The TEV Project