Friday, June 19, 2009

Professional Skills (Analysis, intuition, Judgment, Experience and Imagination - Part 2)

I did not mean to have such a long gap between my last post on this subject and this follow up thought. But this subject just got overlooked in the everyday!
Hope it is not too late for it to be still relevant.
There is a skill more important than all of the skills that I talked about in my last post on this subject.

There is something much bigger than analysis, intuition and judgment all put together. To me, the ability to Believe and Decide is bigger than all else.

One can have the gift of intuition to define the most inspiring direction of thought, one can have the ability to analyze and reach the causes underlying the problem, we can have the most experienced mind helping us judge the multiple outcomes of any action - but at the end of it all, we need someone to believe in one of the approaches and then go after it.

Nothing can be called successful until it is decided and executed - that is where I see a skill vacuum. Very few people have the ability to decide and decide on time. The brightest ideas can flop just the way the most obvious options look like strategic turning points, if they get the nod in time and are executed right.

People love to talk about strategy but no strategy can be called that unless it is implemented. Before implementation or execution strategy is merely an option. Here is what I have observed about great leaders and strategists – “they are not the brightest they are the bravest!” They believe and do. Belief and courage in action becomes leadership, and leadership brews success.

We never really know if we truly believe in something till we are in a position to decide basis that belief.
People seek power but very few people are comfortable when power comes their way. The power to decide needs power in that person to decide. But ironically people become very jittery when they have the decision button under their thumb.

To close this discussion here is how I experience the basic professional skills in action everyday

Intuition: gives direction/motivation for decision
Analysis: gives options, right questions
Imagination: gives ideas
Judgment: can give decision/strategy
Courage and Confidence: Finally helps all the skills to add up to something tangible
Belief (or delusion!): Gives confidence and courage

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Introducing the well-known

I usually avoid talking about advertisements here but I could not help putting this one up. I have not seen any television advertising for the Accord 2009, but what I saw in print really caught my attention.
Imagine what perhaps would have been the brief for this piece of communication?

Accord is a well-known brand from Honda and has a history of more than 15 years or so. Thus with a new 2009 Accord coming to the market – the objective was not as much to talk about Accord as it was to talk about the 2009 version. It is not very difficult to imagine that, with one new version of Accord coming to the market almost every 18 months, the new features would be more incremental than transformational. The twin challenge could thus have been
1. How to make incremental changes, from a well-known brand, look interesting
2. How not to leave everything just to the looks of the car?

This is the beauty of this magazine advertisement. Here is how it addresses the above among other challenges, effectively:

1. Make a well labeled diagram but give it a story: The cross section of the car is more than just that – it uses a visual compartment with miniature people in it to demonstrate each feature. It makes each new feature personal and thoughtful and visually arresting. You will definitely stop and read more.

2. Talk about many things and yet give one message: The care has many new features – but the one message that it gives is that the new Accord is loaded much more than ever before

3. Do not just get stuck with the inside: The advertisement still shows the car from outside – looks take care of the rest of the concerns about “is the new Accord looking any different after all?”

4. Tell people what they want to know: Everybody knows Accord is good. Everybody also perhaps knows that the new Accord would be having something new. The question would be - what? This is exactly what this advertisement tells the reader.

Accord 2009 is a winning product. And if I were to go with this example, I would say that the communication also does full justice to make everybody understand that.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The story in the summary

These days you tell people something and they will urge you “Tell me fast!”
When you have an interesting idea you are urged to “turn this concept into an elevator speech!”
When you have a concept you are often asked “what is the key visual for this creative approach?
When you have a theme with multiple facets, people say “can you show this as a visual board?”
And one of my favourites, “Do not give me a research report – just give me a well edited video film that I can play for about 7-10 minutes..”

People try to get more out of their life and time in more ways than one “The album sucks – just get the 1st and 4th track”, “What is the one thing that this workshop told you?” “So what is this book really saying?”

And then of course everyone tries to convey their feelings with communication expressions like “LOL”, “Rgds”, “Tks” “tc” (in addition to, the now, more than 50 kinds of smiley)

Also, in the past almost 2-3 years, people have even started rationing spelling their names – I guess it started with the lack of time and soon turned into a statement of style through on brevity. So Saurabh Sharma is not needed at the need of every mail – ‘s’ is enough however if you really mean to sign off, it can be “S”.

The rise of visually rich adult comics, messages with symbols, PowerPoint presentations without words, word documents without many words, music without words, music videos with Karaoke are some examples of the new shorthand culture.

While on one side everything is getting “shorter, crisper, smoother, faster, focused, narrow, now and quick”, on the other side there is this constant appeal for the “Story”. “Can you say what you want to say in a way that I not just hear but I also ‘like to listen’, ‘remember’, ‘believe’ and ‘act upon’?”

I believe that the paucity of time is intensifying the tension between ‘relaxed story telling’ and ‘brevity geared for efficiency’. The long story needs to get short but the short point needs to tell a story!
Today, the classic - ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ also needs a story that can be engaging and yet at the same time ‘the stories that we tell need to be told in the elevator’.

Interpersonal communication, especially in work situations, is becoming increasingly demanding and most of us who do not recognize this end up at the wrong side of it. The key perhaps is to understand (in real time) when to switch to the story, when to say the summary and when to say the story in a summary.