April 2011

Solving Problems: First Get Your Brand Bearings

2017-08-21T17:03:52+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , |

At times, has your company or team ever felt lost at sea?

I recently built an exercise for a company that was ready to grow… and while they had goals in mind – a destination – they weren’t sure where they were! When we first discussed the challenge, it reminded me of a ship… at sea… unsure of its position.

Without knowing where you are, even with a particular destination established, you won’t know the right way to head.

The first step for their growth was to determine where they were. The free booklet linked below is the step-by-step workshop I built for that team. It’s called Get Your Brand Bearings. The link below will take you to the download page!

Get Your Brand Bearings:
Strategy Session Workshop
While this example is for a brand, you could easily use it to measure the status of a product, service, process, customers, employees; nearly anything!

And, oh – the company put this process to use, and the results are an essential part of their strategic growth plans. I hope you find it helpful too!

Good Presentation Should Only Be Susceptible To Only One Interpretation

2011-04-22T09:40:28+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

You may have already heard this story in a project management or team-building session. It is told today as several people blindfolded… each standing at a different part of (but not knowing it is) an elephant. From their micro perspective each has a different interpretation.

The Blind Men and the Elephant
[click for larger view]

Author Willard Brinton begins his book Graphic Presentation explaining — in 1939 — the importance of accuracy of presentation of charts to ensure truth and clarity of presentation. Nearly 50 years before PowerPoint – people were monkeying with graphs and charts to present how they wanted the info to be interpreted… What am I thinking? I’m sure there’s a fudged chart of hunting and gathering statistics on cave wall somewhere.

You’ll see in the illustration the story begins, “It was six men of Indostan…” Indostan is an archaic term once referring to the Indostandic Peninsula, the former name of South Asia which includes: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and the Himalayan states Bhutan and Nepal. (thanks Wikipedia!)

This graphic is from the book Graphic Presentation written by Willard C. Brinton in 1939. The original story is “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe.

Ideas Are Parasites

2011-04-09T09:57:29+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, think|Tags: , , |

What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?

An idea.

Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold in the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.

An idea that is fully formed, fully understood… that sticks!

Right in there somewhere. [points to noggin].

Short dialogue from the 2010 movie Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page.

Making Decisions With A Coin Toss

2011-04-08T10:26:15+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , |

While it may be a nice way to choose who gets the last cupcake or which side of the field your team starts on, the coin flip can seem like a pretty flimsy way to make important decisions.

But, what do you do when you’ve gathered all the possible data and know all the possible facts? At some point, it becomes counter productive to spend additional time and money seeking additional insight.

As Seth Godin explains in his post today, “When there isn’t enough data, when there can’t be enough data, insist on the flip.”

What Seth doesn’t write – but is part of his current messaging – is that seeking additional data until the cows come home is a way to procrastinate. The problem isn’t so much lack of data, but fear of taking action.

Sometimes we hide behind ‘needing the facts’ so we can keep putting off what we don’t want to do.

Here’s a slightly shortened version of Seth’s post with more details…

Insist On The Coin Flip

Very often, we’re challenged to make decisions with too little information. Sometimes, there’s no information–merely noise. The question is: how will you decide?

Consider the challenge we faced when setting the pricing for a brand of software we were launching in 1986… Should these games cost $29, $34 or $39 each? My bosses and I had one day to finalize our decision for the salesforce.

…We had no graphs, no history, no data. We were the first in the category and there was just nothing significant to go on… We talked for an hour and then did the only intelligent thing–we flipped a coin. To be sure we had it right, we double checked and flipped two out of three. The only mistake we made was wasting an hour pontificating and arguing before we flipped.

This is also the way we should settle closely contested elections. We know the error rate for counting ballots is some percentage–say it’s .01%. Whenever the margin is less than the error rate, we should flip. Not waste months and millions in court, we should insist on the flip. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

Or consider the dilemma of the lucky high school student with five colleges to choose from… Once you’ve narrowed it down and all you’re left with is a hunch, once there are no data points to give you a rational way to pick, stop worrying. Stop analyzing. Don’t waste $4,000 and a month of anxiety visiting the schools again. The data you’ll collect (one lucky meeting, one good day of weather) is just not relevant to making an intelligent decision. Any non-fact based research is designed to help you feel better about your decision, not to help you make a more effective decision.

One last example: if you know from experience that checking job references in your industry gives you basically random results (some people exaggerate, some lie out of spite), then why are you checking?

When there isn’t enough data, when there can’t be enough data, insist on the flip.

By refusing to lie to yourself, by not telling yourself a fable to make the decision easier, you’ll understand quite clearly when you’re winging it.

Once you embrace this idea, it’s a lot easier not to second guess your decisions–and if you’re applying to college, you’ll free up enough time to write a novel before you even matriculate.

(From Seth Godin’s post “Insist On The Coin Flip” published 8 April 2011)

Next Presentation, Take Your Audience On A Hero’s Journey

2016-08-10T15:47:04+00:00 Categories: create, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

A worker ventures forth from their common cube, into the conference room and your wonderful presentation. They are in wonder as you share how they can defeat the challenges the company faces. A decisive victory is won. Now a hero, they come back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow value for the customer.*

A proper presentation should take your audience – the Hero – on a journey from their ordinary world into your special one. They should depart with new knowledge, powers, and confidence they hadn’t realized before your presentation.

How powerful is that?! It certainly ups the ante from slogging through a few thrown-together PowerPoint slides at your next meeting, huh?

In the must-read book Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte, she (among other things) examines models used in story telling to help us create better presentations.

A well written book or screenplay tells a story and brings the audience on the adventure along with the hero of the story. Nancy explains that our presentations should follow the patterns found in great stories. Bring the audience on the adventure.

Nearly every story can be distilled to three acts…

  • Act 1: The story is set-up. We meet likable Hero we can relate to who has a situation.
  • Act 2: A complication emerges that creates a roadblock for the Hero. Act 2 usually has two parts. And,
  • Act 3: The hero finds resolution – a solution to the roadblock that either leads to success or failure. As a result the hero emerges transformed.

A story model featured in Resonate is The Hero’s Journey. It is a basic pattern found in many narratives from around the world and was first described by mythologist (a studier of myths) Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Just the same way a story Hero has to cross over, take a leap of faith to continue their journey… So too does your audience. You ask them to take a leap of faith to adopt your perspective.

The following are diagrams from Resonance that present the Hero Journey. Gray text explains the inner journey of the Hero. Green text explains the outward journey, the character transformation. The example is from the first released Star Wars movie. I’ve split the graphics into their four parts to make them easier to read.

Click on any of the images for a larger view.

The Hero’s Journey

Hero Journey 464

The Audience Journey

Audience Journey

Act 1 – Set-Up

Hero Journey 1Audience Journey 1

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
Here in the Ordinary World the Hero has limited awareness of a problem. Ignorance is bliss, perhaps. A likable audience is unaware they have a problem or opportunity.
The Hero receives a Call to Adventure. There is increased awareness that something more is desired. They are shown a unique idea that brings their world into an imbalance.
The Hero is initially reluctant, and might even Refuse the Call because they’re reluctant to change. They are skeptical, afraid, and resistant to adopt it because it will require change, and change is hard.

One of the things that makes an audience resistant is they can see how tough stages 6 through 11 are going to be. It’s your job to acknowledge that you know how tough the journey will be.


Act 2a – Confrontation

Hero Journey 1Audience Journey 2

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
But they are encouraged by a Mentor and begin to overcome their reluctance. (By the way, as the presenter, you are the Mentor.) But a presenter with experience, valuable insights, and magical tools will help on the journey. The audience will stay skeptical and won’t cross the threshold into your special perspective unless you have wisdom to guide them and a useful idea or tool to give them.
An important change has taken place. The Hero has moved from the Ordinary World into the Special World. They’ve crossed the Threshold and are committing to change. So they decide to jump in and commit to the idea.

Your goal is to get them to commit to crossing the threshold and adopting your perspective. Once the audience commits to jumping in, the real adventure begins.

The Hero encounters Tests, Allies, and Enemies and begins to experiment with the first bit of change. Now the real work begins, but it’s hard. people and things oppose the effort to change.


Act 2b – Confrontation

Hero Journey 1Audience Journey

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
The Hero approaches the Inmost Cave and prepare for a big change. They are determined to push the idea forward and being to work on new skills to be successful.
And endure an Ordeal. They’re attempting big change. They take a major step toward your idea, and it doesn’t quite work out as they’d thought.

Their commitment will be tested, and they’ll need to renew their loyalty to the idea over and over before it’s reality.

They take possession of their Reward. They feel the consequence of their attempt – the improvements and setbacks. They get discouraged and consider giving up on the idea, but they begin to see some benefit from their effort.


Act 3 – Resolution

Hero JourneyAudience Journey

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
They take the Road and cross back over to the Ordinary World. This threshold serves as a rededication to change. They decide to continue on with a renewed excitement, even though resistance around them is chronic.
They experience a Resurrection and are transformed by the experience. Utilizing their new tools, they try one final time to push the idea forward and are victorious.
Now that they’ve mastered the problem, they Return with the Elixir – a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World. The idea is widely adopted and the galaxy is a better place.


Okay, Now What?

Next time you have a presentation to give, follow the path of the blue wheel, The Audience Journey. Show your audience an idea that brings imbalance. An idea that they now feel needs to be a part of their life. Know they’ll be skeptical but show them valuable insights and tools that will help them on the journey…

*My opening is a reinterpretation of the hero’s journey in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Images are © 2010 Nancy Duarte. All rights reserved.