conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Posts Tagged ‘collaborate

Policy is the Gulag of Good Ideas

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Good Ideas Sour and Stink When Enshrined as Law

 

“We’ll do it this way going forward.”

 

If you could do a quick, very honest poll of employees listening to their boss say those words, how many would silently be saying, “No. We won’t do it that way.”

  • 50 percent?
  • 99 percent?
  • 100 percent?
HM Prison Geelong

HM Prison Geelong

It is possible the very nature of the hierarchical or “push” corporation lends itself to sapping motivation from good ideas. When ideas come from above as pre-packaged laws-of-this-workplace, a piece of humanity goes dormant in the otherwise engaged employee. Enough of those pre-packaged laws-of-this-workplace and work becomes full of half-functioning automatons.

A room full of automatons working only for the weekend or the money or to keep a job or to avoid the boss’s wrath may have succeeded 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago. But  smart corporations and organizations will study how to turn their hired automatons into full-fledged, interactive humans while at work, not just after work.

Inevitably, that involves hearing from employees. It must be about hearing from more than the boss or those favored few. And know this: engaged people talk and discuss. That is the way of owning a process. Automatons cannot own a process. But engaged people can own a process, no matter where they fit in the organization.

Once upon a time, the lovely Mrs. Kirkistan and I spent a few years at a volunteer organization that had a compelling mission. But that mission was hindered by a hierarchical leadership approach that treated volunteers as cogs in an unyielding machine. There was no room to engage, revise, add-to or direct from within the roles we played. Only a few key leadership voices could do that. We eventually walked, as did other talented people in a variety of roles.

Coming generations of working stiffs will expect their voices to be heard. Or they will walk.

We can all grow in listening for engaged voices with solid ideas.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Moments of Impact: Making Work Conversations [actually] Work

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This third kind of work conversation involves divergent thinking

In Moments of Impact: How to design conversations that accelerate change (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2014), Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon make the case that we need a third kind of conversation at work. Here’s how Solomon and Ertel categorize most work meetings:

  1. Typical meeting where someone stands at the front blathering on with slides while attendees multitask with Facebook, Twitter and occasionally, actual work.
  2. Brainstorming meeting where people attend to think brand new thoughts (and to eat donuts). But brainstorming meetings are routinely dismissed today as producing far fewer ideas than if the attendees sat in isolation producing ideas before coming together.
  3. Strategic Conversations. This is Ertel and Solomon’s new kind of conversation. Rather than engaging in the typical presentation/multi-tasking meeting, they want attendees to deeply and viscerally engage in a compelling question.
Mindful like a hungry hawk.

Mindful like a hungry hawk.

Moments of Impact is all about how to make this third kind of conversation happen. The book develops five points to help make strategic conversation an experience versus another bout of human downloadment:

  1. Declare objectives/define the purposeMomentsOfImpact-10272014
  2. Identify participants/engage multiple perspectives
  3. Assemble content/frame the issues
  4. Find a venue/set the scene
  5. Set the agenda/make it an experience

Nothing earth-shattering so far, right?

And yet, as it is so often, our connections provide the earth-shattering stuff, rather than any consultant’s formula. Where we connect—with 100% attention—that’s where the magic happens. In connection there something mystical that lies beyond engineering technique and management principles. Moments of Impact is about setting the stage for that connection.

One thing is becoming clearer very day: when we employ mindfulness rather than pursuing mindlessness, we find ourselves deeply engaged rather than seeking more distractions.

Mindfulness in the service of creating an experience also seems to honor humans as human (versus as corporately-owned human capital to be rejiggered at will).

That old attitude may have worked for an assembly line (doubtful), but for our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, we need the best each of us can bring.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Collaboration in Real Life: The Book Cover

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Self-promotion is stinky poop

This week I spoke with a copywriter who writes plays and novels on the side. But he doesn’t work too hard on promoting his finished bits of literature. He prefers to stick to the writing part (who doesn’t?). This copywriter is not atypical on two counts:

  1. If you don’t need to get your message out (that is, move product to earn the feeble coin a book represents) you can let it languish.
  2. Copywriters are bad at self-promotion.
Listen Talk Camp Fire-RD-10212014

Roger’s cover

Not all copywriters, and probably not the copywriter I spoke with. But many are bad at self-promotion. It’s funny because while copywriters have insight into the psychology of business problems and use divergent thinking to solve those problems, they have a hard time turning that insight onto their own projects.

And that is true for all of us.

It’s not just because self-promotion has the feeling of swimming in a septic tank. It is also because we are truly blinded to the very things we are most passionate about. We’re typically deep inside those passions, and we have no clue what it all looks like from the outside. That’s why we need to tell others and get the outside insight that telling affords.

A client and friend provided a quick insight that has proved far better than anything this insider could produce. My first book, ListenTalk: When Conversation is an Act of God, is on its way through this marathon called publishing. Encapsulating the message into an image and a few words has proved daunting to me. Roger’s cover, with the fire, well, most people love it better than my covers. I’m not bitter, I’m grateful: grateful to have people around who can offer very tangible insights. These insights regularly, well, cover my arse. And I’ve always maintained that I am neither a designer nor photographer.

I thank God for people with such quick insight.

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My covers.

A word about ListenTalk versus “conversation is an engine”

If you’ve dropped by this blog, you may have noticed I hit on different topics as they relate to conversation. Business and the business of writing, and the business of how faith and craft and work fit together are key drivers for me as I write.

My first ongoing project along these lines was to develop a sort of practical theology of persuasion—something I was desperate to understand as a copywriter who regularly trusts in God. That is what ListenTalk represents. It takes some topics from “conversation is an engine” but develops them specifically for people of faith. Here’s the draft copy from the back cover:

“Talk is cheap.”

So we say, but deep down we know different.

We know talk is a potent engine for war and love and all that lies between. Talk is our entertainment and our tool for exploring every relationship. Talk is an economic engine. Lives change—culture changes—when we talk together. In many ways, the future is patterned after our speech.

And this: even God responds to talk.

Yet we pay scarce attention to the working parts of conversation: the listening, the words used, and the intent behind the words. And we hardly think about God’s purpose in speaking, and how God speaks today with fierce desire for reunion—and how that desire motivates all God says and does.

Every day, people work out God’s desire in thousands of ordinary ways. Not so much through sermons and high-minded programs as through the ordinary conversations among themselves.

ListenTalk will help you to re-think what God accomplishes in even your smallest, most ordinary conversations.

ListenTalk is a wonderful book with deep wisdom, practical advice, and heart-warming encouragement. Read it, converse with it, and share it with others.” –Dr. Quentin Schultze, Calvin College

“In our contemporary world where words and ideas seem to divide far more than they unite, ListenTalk provides an antidote of balance and sanity. ListenTalk reminds us of a power that can lead to greater understanding, intimacy, collaboration, and even personal transformation…culminating in deepening our life with God.” –Judith Hougen, University of Northwestern—St. Paul

 

 

Hey—wait a second. You could buy ListenTalk!

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Are Doctors “Ethically Obligated” to Tweet?

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No.

Although Wendy Sue Swanson, MD (@SeattleMamaDoc) feels that way about her social media presence (as demonstrated in this clip).

There is one piece of the Hippocratic Oath that calls for casting a wider net in “all my acquirements, instructions, and whatever I know” to those within the physician’s circle. The original oath also called all gods and goddesses to witness and observe, but these days the NSA serves that function (despite HIPAA).

PrivelegeSpokenBegin-12022013

Yesterday’s MedAxiom post by Ginger Biesbrock (“Has anyone seen my Dictaphone?”) makes the excellent point that any new technology adopted should make taking care of patients easier. New technology should not get in the way of treatment, it should not be another hurdle to jump. Instead, technology should simplify meeting the patient’s need. That’s why I’m pleased with the movement to hire medical scribes to complete the electronic medical records in the moment—freeing doctors to treat patients versus keyboarding.

Dr. Swanson’s strong feeling about casting a wider net is likely shared by many if not most physicians. And it just so happens that putting correct information out where regular folks might read it may also be a way to grow your practice—which has been the capitalistic promise of social media from day one.

Sure: doctors are busy. But I cannot help but wonder if more and more physicians will make outward communication (blogging, tweeting, connecting) a priority as they work to free themselves from some routine tasks.

Many already are.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Beware the Information Hoarders in Your Office

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Collaboration opens as the sharing economy pushes back into your organization

Old-School Corporate Climbers held information and doled it out on a need-to-know basis. Knowing secrets was their key to moving up and sometimes they purposely withheld information so you might fail/they might succeed.

Maybe you know someone like this.

KnowledSharedPowerAmassed-10142014

But as we watch the sharing economy slip free of social media venues and push back into organizations (simultaneously raising the expectation of being heard), I expect we’ll see another kind of corporate operative: the sharer. Maybe I’ll call that person the Sharing-Economy Newbie. In this new world of sharing information, the Sharing-Economy Newbie shares information freely and in a way that allows others to collaborate. The power the surrounds them will not be command-and-control power, it will be the power that invites participation.

Then again, human nature being what it is, there will always be information hoarders. Old-School Corporate Climbers will always find their way. But if we intentionally build cultures that reward information sharing and collaboration, the organization, its mission, and humanity are the big winners.

Maybe there are some who prefer a command-and-control culture of being told what to do at every turn, but there will be fewer and fewer every year.

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Dumb sketch credit: Kirk Livingston

Clothe Your Team with Inspiring Briefs

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Creatives are natural problem-solvers. Start them with a tantalizing puzzle to solve.

In stark contrast to the meeting where the boss wanted creatives morphed into analysts, Adrian Goldthorpe (Lothar Böhm London) has such faith in the creative process he thinks creatives are proper problem solvers. All they need is the right question, which turns out to be a really good puzzle to solve.

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One Artist’s Solution: 262 Studios, St. Paul Art Crawl

The creative brief (as you know) provides a quick take on a new assignment. All too often the brief is prepared and presented as a sleepy, non-essential document. But for copywriters and art directors, that brief can and should be a vital link to starting with the right focus.

Goldthorpe laments the mindless filling of briefs and checking of boxes, which is how many creative projects begin. Instead, at a meeting in Moscow earlier this year, he recommended short, informative briefs that facilitate (versus block) creative solutions. The brief should succinctly answer five questions:

  1. What should the creative do?
  2. What do we want to achieve?
  3. Who is the audience?
  4. What is the brand proposition and how is that supported?
  5. What is the tone of the voice?

Of course there is more to say in a brief and we all experiment with different ways to communicate this information. But I like Goldthorpe’s succinct, concrete statement of the problem. It is enough information to provide a frame to begin the creative process.

Naturally the creative process is not just for “creatives” at an ad agency. Presenting our problem or opportunity for others to consider and collaborate with is something authors deal with, and parents and professors and bosses. And coworkers.

It behooves any of us to consider how we succinctly introduce a topic to others, especially if we want help.

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Via POPSOP

Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

October 13, 2014 at 9:53 am

A Tale of Two Meetings

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Collaboration in person and on paper

Meeting #1: The entire department was gathered at tables shaped into a horseshoe, to facilitate discussion. Twenty to thirty of us waiting for the director to come in and explain his vision. And his vision was that the creatives needed to become analysts. Art directors, designers, copywriters, production personnel—everyone an analyst. Everyone focused on metrics. Give away the creative to outside agencies.

The director talked for 30 minutes and then asked for questions.

Not a single question.

Meeting #2: The entire group was gathered at tables shaped into a horseshoe, to facilitate discussion. Twenty to thirty of us waiting for a series of speakers to come in and explain their vision. Speaker after speaker explained their vision, the metrics they used to decode that vision, and the outcomes they experienced.

Each of the seven speakers spoke for a few minutes and then paused and waited for responses. Then they spoke again and waited. The entire group learned quickly that each speaker truly sought interaction.

Every pause elicited questions. Tangents were followed despite time constraints. After all, the point was the responses.

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In my social media marketing class we spend time talking about how to get interaction and comments from the communities we are building. At first it is discouraging for the students, their work feels like shouting treasured thoughts into a hillbilly hollering convention. Nearly impossible to be heard.

But gradually a few people show up at each student’s attempts. And we learned to treat comments from these few with great care: responding immediately. Thanking those who show up for reading. Engaging the thoughts of the people who showed up. Then the students learned to go visit others building similar communities and listen and comment. And soon they found their community growing (in the social world, people follow back those who show up). And they learned not just to put questions at the end of diatribe but to design pauses in the middle of their thoughts so people could respond. And they learned to break up a lecture into a series of engaging posts. And they learned to let their thoughts be shaped by what the people who showed up said.

Those two meetings had key differences: In Meeting #1 each audience member reported to the director so there was very little debate. Debate in that particular firm seemed not too far from mutiny. But in Meeting #2 (same company, oddly enough), the audience was composed of potential customers. And as each speaker spoke, they did their best work with verbal and body language to engage the audience. And each of the potential customers spoke freely, calling “BS” when they heard it, disagreeing vocally, undaunted by executive titles.

Our verbal collaborations point to our literate collaborations. Pauses in copy, short copy, even shorter copy, copy that talks about what people are interested in—all of these allow collaboration. But the key is how you think about the audience: do you really want their response? People are not stupid: they know when someone is lecturing. And lecturing is a sure-fire way to shut down collaboration.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

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