Communication | The Brainzooming Group - Part 91 – page 91
0

Many people struggle with selling intangible ideas, benefits, and points of view. If you have a discomfort with abstractions, it’s difficult to modify your communication style to create a picture in someone’s mind of something that doesn’t physically exist.

One person who does a wonderful job of that on a weekly basis is Garrison Keillor along with the cast of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio program. Every Saturday afternoon, they bring to life a whole host of situations, characters, and even products that are completely fictional. So for today’s Change Your Character exercise, let’s delegate our task of conveying intangible ideas to them and see how the cast would approach the task by:

  • Writing a script
  • Incorporating rich, vivid language
  • Featuring reoccurring characters
  • Employing a variety of entertainment formats
  • Telling stories
  • Acting out skits with multi-talented performers
  • Booking guests to help act out the stories
  • Interviewing guests
  • Intermixing real and imagined entities (sponsors, characters, etc.)
  • Mixing comedy and drama
  • Incorporating sound effects
  • Having a band play music and theme songs
  • Performing in front of a studio audience that provides real reactions to the material

Step right up to the microphone and share three new possibilities for helping your audience visualize intangible ideas based on each of the techniques above. If you need an additional push, try some Powdermilk Biscuits – they “give shy persons the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done.”

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

2

While in South Florida, I had dinner with Dave Brown (no relation) who introduced me to my wife and was our boss on the student activities board at Fort Hays State University. We later went to Southern Illinois University as a result of Dave introducing us to his former student activities boss from grad school.

It’s embarrassing that it’s been twenty years since we’ve seen each other because Dave was the first strategic mentor in my career. I learned a number of very important lessons from Dave that have served me incredibly well since; they can probably benefit you also:
  • Whenever you’re bringing even a few people together, it’s an event and you should make it special. Under Dave’s tutelage, I produced small coffee house performances and a 5,000 person concert. No matter how many people were attending, he emphasized making the event something memorable. That perspective shaped me to view every meeting or presentation, no matter how small, as an event where there’s a duty to create a memorable experience.
  • You have to plan and manage the whole host of details for any event. Dave demonstrated the discipline of planning and producing large events. It became quickly clear I wouldn’t get into concert production (Kansas City’s most well-known promoter told me to forget it, because “you start at the bottom and work your way down”). Yet when another mentor entered my career later, and our company started producing large events, I was able to step into a production and on-stage role seamlessly even though I was a market research guy. That opportunity has profoundly shaped my career the last 10 years.
  • Create a huge vision and stick to it amid all odds against you accomplishing it. Dave created an incredible, nationally-recognized concert series at a small Western Kansas college, attracting an unbelievable string of #1 chart acts. He did it with an often hostile university administration that completely missed the significance of his accomplishments in gaining attention for the university. It was audacious, but it was the right thing for the school, and Dave was going to make it happen no matter what.

There’s a host of other things in my life that Dave shaped, but within this short post, he accounted for me meeting my spouse, making the introduction that ultimately led to me getting a nearly free graduate education, turning me into an “event person,” and paving the way to successfully seize one of the biggest opportunities of my career.

All I can say is “thank you,” and let’s stay in better touch Dave. And if you have a strategic mentor and haven’t done either of these two things lately, I’d suggest you locate them and do the same!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

Another question at last week’s conference was on getting reluctant people to participate in strategic thinking efforts if they don’t want to spend the time or are skeptical about its value. Barring a management directive, you can’t force participation. Instead, consider two other approaches.

First is the Wednesday “Change Your Character” exercise. Professional event planners face similar challenges. They’re under the gun to produce great events and make sure that people want to show up for them. They accomplish this with their event by:

  • Having multiple events of different sizes at different times to attract different groups
  • Planning the event’s timing so it doesn’t conflict with other priorities
  • Tying the event to an already scheduled activity
  • Holding the event someplace new – in a more convenient or a unique location
  • Broadening the invitation list with new participants and guests who usually wouldn’t be invited
  • Confirming well-known guests personally and communicating their participation to others
  • Creating a compelling invitation – ensuring invitees know all event details and the benefits of attending
  • Inviting people in sufficient time for them to commit
  • Making it easy to RSVP in the affirmative
  • Calling invitees to confirm attendance and reminding them about the event a week before
  • Creating attractive networking and relationship building opportunities for attendees
  • Giving certain invitees specific roles to perform at the event

As usual, come up with 3 new ideas for each event planner technique to get people to come to a strategic thinking session.

Here’s the bonus on this challenge – Five approaches that we’ve used to secure participation from people reluctant to invest time on strategy:

  • Collect strategic input with online exercises – Allow people to participate without a meeting. Use this for SWOT exercises, gauging opinions, and soliciting perceptions on future industry dynamics.
  • Secure a little bit of time with a clear objective – If you can get 45 minutes of a group’s time, select an exercise and a prioritization approach that will fit the time. Make sure you’re clearly moving toward your objective within the session.
  • Do strategic thinking for non-participants – Find out what non-participating stakeholders want to accomplish and do the strategic thinking for them. Package the outcome in a recommendation or executive summary, pitching the results to demonstrate strategic thinking’s benefits.
  • Work with who you can get – If you have a small but diverse group interested in strategic thinking, hold a session with them. Ensure that you clearly deliver results and create a buzz about it afterward.
  • Reference sell – If someone senior has seen beneficial results from strategy efforts, ask them to contact your reluctant thinkers, recommending they find time because it’s worth it.

Use these five approaches and the event planner techniques to get your foot in the door for more strategic thinking within your business. And to gain a better perspective on the advantage of thinking about even small business presentations as events, check out tomorrow’s post.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I’m excited to have Brad Barash from Decision Insight in Kansas City as the first guest blogger. Brad and I worked together for a number of years, and he was the creative force behind a video called, “How to Kill a Business.” It remains one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of portraying research insights in a fun and incredibly memorable way using video. So when it comes to expertise in communicating research reports in unique, impactful ways, he knows from where he speaks!

When Mike asked me to write about communicating research results, one word quickly came to mind:

Regurgitation.

What a great word. So vivid. So unmistakable in its connotation.

I cannot think of a better word (unfortunately) to describe the typical research report. Too often, the “writing” in reports is simply regurgitation of the data on the slide (“17% of respondents _____”). That’s not delivering insight. That’s dumping data. (Regurgitating, dumping… may be coming from different places, but the result is the same!)

Our job as researchers and marketers is to tell a story, not report data. We should be writing the column on the sports page, not simply delivering the box scores.

There is a reason most reports don’t feel like a cohesive story. Researchers are too quick to create charts and graphs. Then, the charts and graphs are put in “chronological” order (i.e. question 1 on slide 1, question 2 on slide 2, etc.). When you do this, you are confined to a structure that is rarely conducive to telling the best story.

To go from data dump to story, use what I call the “note card puzzle” approach. First, scour the data, and write every key finding on a separate note card. At this point, it is OK to simply regurgitate the data point onto the card.

Then, physically put together the cards that “fit” together, or those that point to a consistent theme.

From there, come up with no more than 3-4 key themes, or big picture “insights.”

Next, re-sort the note cards across the key insights as follows:

  • Support one of the key insights
  • Contradict one of the key insights
  • Spurious (do not support or contradict any of the key insights)

Ideally, there are few contradictory data points. If they do exist, first find out if they truly contradict the insight. To understand how to sort through meaningful data interpretations, check out this article by Richard McCullough. (This should be required reading for any researcher!)

If there are meaningful contradictions, then the key insights likely need to be revised. Most often, however, you are left with some spurious data points that should be buried in the appendix. And, with the “supporting” data points, you have a structure that makes telling the story simple. Key insight 1 is _____, and here is the data that supports that; key insight 2 is ______, and here is the data that supports that, etc.

One final trick to telling a story: do NOT use statistics or data in your headlines. Quick Example:

  • Page 1 – Key Insight: The Jayhawks are a solid pick to win the National Championship this year.
  • Page 2 – Headline: They are a veteran team.
    Support charts/graphs: % of upperclassman relative to other contenders
  • Page 3 – Headline: They have won big games already this year.
    Support charts/graphs: # of wins vs. ranked teams
  • Page 4 – Headline: They are balanced, so they can overcome a poor game by any one player.
    Support charts/graphs: scoring averages of starters relative to other contenders
  • Etc.

Here’s hoping this example does not make any non-Jayhawk fans regurgitate! But, notice how there is no statistic in any insight or headline. The data that is reported simply supports the writing. Brad Barash

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I had a fascinating lunch recently with Jay Liebenguth who hosts two business-oriented radio programs on KCTE-1510 AM in Kansas City. Jay is also involved with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY ™, a very cool approach to teambuilding and innovation that centers on people working with LEGOS to express the stories and possibilities that they see within an organization. As Jay described facilitating the process, he mentioned that in many cases, this technique helps give a voice to people who might otherwise have difficulty communicating the depth of their feelings or perceptions of a situation.

His comment triggered me to draw the cartoon in the upper right on the tablecloth (don’t worry, it was a paper tablecloth). While there are a number of posts on this blog about finding your best thinking style, we haven’t addressed identifying your best communication style, so here’s a quick thought on the topic.

Broaden your thinking about what communication is. Don’t limit your perspective to simply writing a report or delivering a presentation. Think about communication as transferring information – knowledge, perceptions, feelings, emotions, talents, joys, accomplishments. And these can be transferred among people in a myriad of ways.

Making this switch will ideally open up your thinking about your best communication style. It may be making really cool cartoon character cakes for your kids. It may be sewing or pop culture or photography. Could be genealogy, collecting bobbleheads, or even building things with LEGOS.

The point (and the challenge) is to consider how you communicate well in potentially non-traditional formats and bring the passion and skill you have in those areas into your business communication. It may take some creative thought; it may take some courage. But be assured, the benefits of incorporating your strongest communication styles into more parts of your life will far outweigh the effort or risk!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

It’s beneficial to determine the vital steps and questions behind a successful project so you can repeat them in the future. If a project doesn’t end as planned, it’s also important to figure out what was missed so you don’t have to re-learn a mistake. I’ve been doing a post mortem for a recent project and finding two frustrating lessons.

Both tie to an unexpected twist near the project’s end. The non-technical team (that would include me) was surprised by an unanticipated outcome that fell short of expectations. Our technically-oriented teammates, closely involved in the project’s design, were also surprised – surprised that we hadn’t clearly seen the (obvious to them, unexpected to us) detail in all the drawings and plans we’d reviewed for weeks.

So what happened?

In retrospect, the critical detail was in the drawings, but it was lost in a misperception of foreground & background. We (the non-techs) were looking at familiar & prominent images in the drawings, so the unfamiliar (and less prominent) detail moved deep into the background of our visual perception.
To compound matters, the non-techs drove a significant design change before the project’s start. Its ripple effects magnified the detail we’d missed once the project neared completion. Because we couldn’t perceive the detail, we didn’t realize our decision didn’t make sense. And since the techs couldn’t perceive that we weren’t visualizing the decision’s implications, they weren’t prompted to say it didn’t make sense.

The first lesson then is that there probably wasn’t any clear way to avoid the disconnect. Since neither group could perceive the potential problem, neither was able to ask a clarifying question or make a mid-course correction. I don’t think I’ve run into a situation quite like this previously. I’ll be more sensitive to this possibility in the future when working with a very proficient technical group, although I’ll still be without a great question that could confirm everyone’s perceptions.

The second lesson? Much of my consternation about the project’s outcome took place just before its completion. While that’s usually a good time to view a project and correct last minute issues, it clearly wasn’t in this case. When everything was done fifteen hours later, the previous day’s glaring problem was barely noticeable within the finished project. The final steps re-oriented my foreground / background perception, allowing the problematic detail to fade into the background once more.

Short story, here are the lessons learned:

  1. Sometimes there’s no way to perceive a potential problem to head it off, and
  2. Sometimes reviewing a project before it’s completed creates more problems than it fixes.

While these certainly seem like valuable lessons, I HATE them both. So if you can figure out better lessons than these, ones that actually involve fixing something rather than simply waiting around to see what happens, let me know. I’d appreciate it!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

6

Notice something about the ritual of pulling petals from a flower and saying, “she loves me, she loves me not?” There are only two choices – yes or no, one or the other. Makes decision making pretty simple. You can force this technique on yourself when you’ve got lots of things to prioritize and are struggling in your decision making.

Say you’re writing a Poweroint presentation for your senior management and have 15 points you feel you have to make. But you know that there’s no way you’ll get to cover more than 3 of them. Here’s how you can use a forced comparison model to help in your decision making about narrowing the list:

  • Write all 15 key messages on individual sticky notes and place them on a wall or desk.
  • Select two messages and compare them, asking, “If I could only make one of these points, which one is more important?” Place the one you pick at the top of the wall or desk, with the other below it.
  • Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is more important, it goes on top, and the others move down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

When you’re done using this simple decision making model, you should have a fairly quick prioritization, getting you out of the decision making trap that everything is equally important. The technique works well either individually or with a group that’s trying to do decision making in a whole variety of situations. So try it, or try it not…try it! – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can provide as-needed assistance to challenge and refine your strategic thinking and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading