Enlightened Conflict

the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

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Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

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Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

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I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

==================

 

“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

====================

 

All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

the unexpected move

June 27th, 2017

bad idea beauty life business

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“The unexpected, always the unexpected.


If they expect you to move right, move left.


The first law of survival in this jungle that you’ll inhabit.
The unexpected move. “

 

—-

The Avengers

 

========

 

“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”

 

Terry Pratchett

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Well.

 

Far too often in business we talk about making an “unexpected move” to gain an advantage as “zig when they zag.”

 

So … lets’ take a minute and talking about the whole “zigging when they zag” bullshit.

 

Oh.

Yeah.

 

On a football field zigging when they zag can be effective … but in business it is bullshit.

 

Look.

 

I am all for running with a temporary advantage when given the opportunity <and, yes, about 97.385% of advantages are temporary — I made up the 97.385% number>.

But that is not ‘zigging’.

 

I am all for hunkering down on a specific distinctness when it appears the rest of the category is bumbling around in an array of meaningless claims.

But that is not zigging.

 

I am all for leaping through a window of opportunity when the window cracks open.

But that is not zigging.

 

Suffice it to say … zigging, in general, is a stupid strategy.

 

Let me explain why.

 

Most industries once they have a fair number of competitors is more like a 7 zig zag highway unexpected businesslane superhighway where everyone is driving in the same direction within the same guard rails.

 

Not everyone will like thinking that but the truth is that most businesses have smart people who see the same information and do all the necessary research with people who are likely, and not likely, to buy whatever it is they are selling and therefore strategies are in the same realm and everyone is pretty much competing in the same arena.

 

This means a couple of things.

 

Everyone is speeding toward the same destination.

If something is obvious to you, it is most likely obvious to them.

 

What all of this means is you have to move but most moves have to be done artfully.

 

So maybe despite the fact I balk at the whole ‘zig when they zig’ and ‘unexpected’ anything in business gives me heartburn it is possible I could discuss the art of the unexpected move.

 

I call it “art” because unpredictability as normal behavior is bad. No one likes someone who is unpredictable 100% of the time and organizations <alignment, operations and ‘day to day doing’> tend to respond poorly to unpredictability.

 

unexpected changeIn my highway metaphor unpredictability most likely means either <a> a crash or <b> slowing down and you get passed or <c> you are now on a completely different road than all the other competitors speeding toward sales, & customers.

 

As for predictable?

Yikes. Boring. Lack of creativity. Bad <in a different way> … let’s just call predictable “lack of any art.”

 

In my highway metaphor this most likely means you are cruising in one of the right lanes, the slower lanes, and people are passing you all the frickin’ time.

 

This suggests making a move in your industry take more art and artfulness to navigate the path you desire or take advantage of the opportunity that may open.

 

This also suggests, in the business world, you sit up and pay attention just with a little more focus when someone pulls out the “maybe we should zig when they zag” tritism. You do so mostly because anyone who says that who is not on a football field most likely has their head up their ass <but want to say something catchy in a meeting to be noticed>.

 

I say that, again, because most time in a business industry companies are going in a direction for a reason … that is where the sales are. So ‘zigging’ when everyone else ‘zags’ more than likely means they are heading toward sales and you are not <but you can always say you zigged when they zagged>.

 

Ok.

 

Now.

 

If you want to tie ‘unexpected move’ to survival … well … that is a different story.

 

Survival does have a nasty habit of forcing some unexpected maneuvering. Ok. Maybe out of desperation the predictable in us decides that maybe being ‘unexpected’ may actually be called for.

 

I would suggest that if you find yourself in desperate times rarely is anything artful in that moment.

But I would suggest that in a desperate survival mode I can offer tow lists you should write up on some big board in some big conference room and make sure you discuss.

 

There are basically 4 basic responses to a threat <or opportunity I imagine>:

 

 

  • Fight

 

  • Flee

 

  • Deceive

 

  • Submit

 

 

Any move you choose to make will be derived from one of these four spaces.

Choose wisely.how we survive makes who we are

 

Once you have chosen <wisely> effectiveness in a survival fight basically comes down to 4 things <in the order of importance>:

 

 

  • aggression and willingness to hurt your competition

 

  • willingness to get hurt yourself

 

  • skill and knowledge

 

  • strength and power

 

 

Some may haggle with my order but the top two will dictate your success regardless of how you stack the last two.

And of the last two is would suggest most of the time knowing what to do is more important than brute strength.

Choose wisely <but always choose the first two or you will get crushed>.

 

I offer these two lists because when anyone suggests zigging when someone zags I bring these out.

Shit.

I bring these two lists out almost any time a business wants to talk about effectively competing in an industry.

 

Why?

 

Because nothing really matters if you do not figure out these two lists.

 

Why?

 

Temporary as long asGoing back to what I said earlier … advantages are temporary   and the other guys/gals you are competing against are as smart as you are.

You don’t zig just for the sake of zigging <that is wasted organizational energy> and if you do have to take an unexpected move it is most typically a response to something in the situation.

 

While we like to talk about zigging and zagging the reality comes back to the highway. You have to move forward and keep moving forward <or get run over>.

The only zigging anyone should ever talk about is either moving into another lane to pass someone or another lane to let someone pass you or change lanes to avoid a crash.

 

================

 

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.

Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

 

—-

William S. Burroughs

 

==============

 

Unexpected moves just to do something unexpected is … well … stupid.

It is in the same category as change for change sake.

It is in the same category as zigging when they zag.

 

Now.

 

Unexpected moves made in the search for something incredible waiting to be known <some desired destination>? Well … yeah … that isn’t stupid.

 

===========

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 

—-

Carl Sagan

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.......... zig zag mistake ................

……………. zig zag mistake …………….

Unexpected moves made to survive on the competition highway? That isn’t stupid.

 

Unexpected moves made to veer through a window of opportunity that arises? That isn’t stupid.

 

But zig when they zag? C’mon. That’s just stupid.

 

It is stupid because more likely than not it just means you will have not left the comeptition behind but rather just left the competition.

the science, and the lost art, of ROI

May 24th, 2017

choices-path-shopping-direction-decisions

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“… businesses want answers right away and many times high statistical reliability is not worth the cost it takes to achieve it.

 

Insights that point decision-makers to go “left” or “right” is innately good enough. Leaders are oftentimes not willing to pay for “turn left at a 30 degree angle” or “turn right at an 115 degree angle” because it may cost too much money and takes far too long to obtain those precise next steps through drawn-out methodologies.”

 

—–

Kuhn

 

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“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

 

=

John Dewey

 

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“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

 

============

 

Well.

 

fire water contradiction ideas thinkThis is about how ROI gets abused in decision making and I am writing about that because the Trump administration issued their “national budget proposal” <which I fully acknowledge is simple a guideline of the administration’s desires> and immediately started ponying up all their “we made cuts where there was no evidence of appropriate results” justifications.

 

Some of those justifications are terrifying.

Some of their choices are terrifying.

 

As for the budget plan?  As one writer put it … “the math is terrifying.”

 

Cutting Medicaid would be devastating for all low-income Americans, but particularly for women and mothers: 45 percent of childbirths in the U.S. were funded by Medicaid in 2010, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump’s budget also cuts funding for after-school programs for children and support for domestic violence victims.

 

I am going to let other people tear apart the incredibly short sighted Trump budget plan <which, yes, has scraps of good ideas> and I will focus on the criteria it appears they focused on <excepting the parental leave initiative which was like placing a half-eaten M&M on top of a turd> — budget by ROI.

 

Budgeting by ROI.

 

Whew.

 

 

This provides me with another excuse to blast my generation of business leaders and how their misguided thinking has screwed up not only how business is conducted, in general, but how we think about business. Specifically about ROI … these hollow men hollowed out business of any of the ‘art’ and color which is associated with thriving businesses which contribute to society & cultural norms leaving at an empty husk of dollars & cents and black & white ROI decisions.

 

Look.

 

roi einstein

I am all for analysis and love quantitatively judging tactics and initiatives. But I also understand that <1>  numbers often do not always tell the entire story and <2> we far too often judge ROI on one specific outcome without assessing some value on some ‘ripple effect’ outcomes.

 

But, first, the numbers and ROI.

 

I wrote back in February that numbers have lost their mojo  … yeah … well … I still believe that … just in a different context.

 

In this case we are dealing with a generation of business people who have completely bastardized the use of numbers – stripping them of anything but the false veneer of what they call “simplistic stark truth.”

Now. ‘Simplistic stark truth’ sounds good … and it sounds really good in the business world.

 

And, yet, in this starkness there is found falseness. The falseness can be found in its lack of imagination, its lack of depth and its lack of seeing anything but ‘what can be measured.’

 

This stupid view of numbers wreaks havoc when viewing ROI analysis.

 

Now … back on November 13th 2016 I wrote about the Trump administration as the last stand of the old white men  <the business generation I continuously skewer> and discussed hollowness. And while I outlined a number of ‘hollow’ things which can be blamed on this generation in that piece I neglected to point one out — the hollowing of ROI.

 

————–

 

ROI.

 

ROI <return on investment> is a fabulous tool. It offers us every day unimaginative pragmatic schmucks an almost heuristic way to judge some fairly complex and complicated things in business.

 

But old white men hollowed ROI of anything intangible and along the way scraped away some of the most meaningful things associated with investment in their desire for simplistic “this led to that.” Certainly some investments have linear outcomes and results. But not all. And these hollow men in their black & white pursuit of profit, efficiency and outcomes became color blind.  Old white men started looking at people as equal to numbers & dollars and not organic organisms of less than linear productivity <in terms of Life actualization as well as business actualization>. These hollow men fell in love with numbers and began diminishing the value of humanity.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

—————-

.......... hollow men making hollow decisions ......

………. hollow men making hollow decisions ……

Well.

 

I could argue this all happened because ROI analysis permitted a shortcut for business people — a thinking & decision making shortcut.

It permitted, and encouraged, an entire generation to not have to really think but rather fallback on “that’s what the analysis said.”

 

That is plain and simple lazy fucking business … not smart solid business.

 

I will not argue that a good ROI analysis can offer a quick spontaneous glimpse of truth viable snapshot … in fact … it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who stated that the growth of intellect is spontaneous.

 

Of course, he hadn’t been bludgeoned with measurement, ROI and data driven decisions.

 

Of course, he was also on the one who stated … what is the hardest task in the world? To think. And. We are all wise. The difference between create destroy pencilpersons is not in wisdom but in art.

 

And that is where Trump and his merry band of old white men doing this whole budget thing are most aggravating.

 

It is not that they cannot envision the art of decision making but rather they purposefully abstain from the art of decision making <and focus solely on ROI>.

 

It is not that they are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas at the same time but rather they purposefully choose to ignore one idea or thought for the one most supported by the science of ROI.

 

 

It is not that they are oblivious to the qualitative nature & benefits of budgetary decision but rather they avoid the more difficult defense of the qualitative to utilize the more easy, and lazy, rationale of the quantitative.

 

I don’t blame them specifically <although it is their budget blueprint> but it is the unfortunate legacy of that entire generation to do those things.

 

All that said.

 

While ROI seems a straightforward way to analyze … ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly tricky … but when done well it can inform some great insightful decisions and ideas.

 

ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly painful … like having the devil screaming at you type painful … and even when done well tends to dull <not sharpen> the good ideas.

 

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The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

 

—-

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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But ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

This seem o be our “how we conduct business handbook” these days.

philosophical-discovering-gravity

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery and the value of … well … the benefit of the benefit <I spent money which created ‘x’ outcome … which enabled this other ‘x’ outcome>.

 

We seem to have culturally decided consciously to … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ? Let me use a quote from Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

 

 

 

“…in the hands of politicians grand designs achieve nothing but new forms of the old misery…”

 

 

 

In our failure of imagination in our analysis of existing programs and initiatives we come up with grand designs begetting new forms of old misery. But what makes today and this budget worse? These are supposed to be fucking business people and not politicians in place making these ‘grand designs’ <isn’t that what some people voted for with Trump?>.

 

I admit.

 

I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward with regard to budgeting tough-choices-shopping-decisions-lifeand programs and policies and deciding what we should do to better America..

 

I am wary because I see little moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ other than bludgeoning people with simplistic harsh solutions and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

I am wary because I see men of a generation who bastardized ROI analysis applying their own bastardized version of ROI thinking to people’s lives <under the guise of “applying it to people’s money/taxes” — no, they are not the same>.

 

I am a business guy.

 

I cannot envision running a business, or a government, without solid measurement, ROI & budgeting rigor.

 

But I also know from running a business with hundreds of employees that the greatness of an organization does not reside solely in some number … or some ROI analysis.

 

==========

 

“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world.

 

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I tend to believe most of us every day schmucks recognize that ROI is part of doing business and insuring our hard earned money/taxes is used effectively.

But I also believe that most of us every day schmucks also realize that some things just cannot be measured solely by numbers.

 

 

I worry that this Trump administration is reflective of the lost art of ROI family choices tough decisions aheadanalysis and the value of discovery

 

In their love of money as ‘winning’ they have lost sight of the value of seeking what is beyond the horizon. They have devalued imagination to such a point that they most likely define imagination as measurable in an ROI analysis. In other words they take ideas and thoughts, even ones with no history, and embrace them not by saying “what if” and “what could be” but rather by grinding it through some veg-o-matic ROI machine to assess its true value.

 

And that, my friends, is how they came up with their “blueprint for a national budget.”

 

And that, my friends, is how they plan on running this country and making their decisions.

 

And that, my friends, is not how America does business … because it shows a failure of imagination and it is imagination, not ROI analysis, which drives real change and progress.

 

—————–

 

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

 

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

 

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

=

 

Baum

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shrinking in comparison

May 19th, 2017

 shrinking trump comparison

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“Most of us, shrinking from the difficulties and dangers which beset the seeker after original answers to these riddles, are contented to ignore them altogether, or to smother the investigating spirit under the featherbed of respected and respectable tradition.”

 

—-

Thomas Henry Huxley

 

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“Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress, But always resolute in most extremes”

 

.

William Shakespeare

 

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Well.

 

Spend enough time in a corporate career and move up in a corporation and pretty much everyone gets some sort of media training <how to communicate trump tweet business hollow empty words awkward situationwith media and effectively communicating your message>.

 

And before you think this is just about senior management folk let me tell you that all you have to do is work with any significant franchise organization and you will invest more energy and time doing media training at all levels than you really would like to do.

Why?

All you have to do is get burned once by some local TV station trying to find some ‘you would be shocked’ story and you will learn the value of media training outside the corporate headquarters and on-the-ground at the service & franchise level.

 

I have received some fabulous media training throughout my career and most likely have a couple of media training manuals and presentations on some thumb drive somewhere. Training can span from a simple one-sheet ‘do this and don’t do this’ to sitting down in front of a camera being taped and grilled by some inquisition-type corporate communications expert <who you will hate for weeks after>.

 

For most of us … all training is excruciatingly painful.

For most of us … all we seek is “an opportunity to keep our mouth shut.”

 

But, alas, corporations and senior management demand face time publicly and it is better to arm yourself than to go into the fight “winging it.”

 

Now.

 

Most relevant to my thought today is that this training pays off in spades when you are forced into a comparison situation. Think being on a panel or standing at side by side podiums. I wrote not long ago about the window of ‘stark contrast opportunities’ in which I discussed the upside in terms of building shift up or downvalue thru contrast.

 

Well.

As with anything good there is also a potential downside.

 

In a contrast situation there is a winner and a loser. And I don’t care how good a thinker you are, how good an instinctual communicator you are or how good an ‘explainer in chief’ you are … you cannot go into any comparison & contrast situation assuming you will  be the better one, the winner by default, in a contrast situation.

 

Contrast situations are fraught with peril.

 

I won’t go into all the training crap but I will point out two core aspects which are relevant to being in a public contrast situation:

 

  • The hard one: simplify without oversimplifying

 

This is hard. Really hard.

And usually takes a shitload of practice & experience … and even then you will not always get it right <except for those truly gifted communicators who make all the rest of us miserable in that because they can do it everyone believes they can also do it>. My belief is always to say just enough so people understand and assume someone will ask a question if they need more information. If you do that, your experience with questions, what questions you get, kind of hone your ‘what is too much and what is too little’.

But you need enough experience and questions in order to be able to bracket what is most efficient & effective.

 

That said.

 

Oversimplifying concludes in one of two places <1> you have no idea what you are talking about or <2> you are out of touch with details and depth of truth

 

You have to figure out a way to showcase you understand the complexity without boring the shit out of people and, ultimately, convincing them you really do know your shit. In addition … you want to give just enough nuance and depth to suggest an ‘attack’, or clarification <which is just another kiss of the comparison death> would be a waste of time.ideas communicate media training shrinking

 

I will not go into all the gory details of how to efficiently communicate complexity <which is actually the advice we should be giving everyone rather than “keep it simple”>.

 

Suffice it to say there are three effective ways to simplify without oversimplifying.

 

 

Bracket your thought with two support points.

 

Triangulate your thought by offering three reasons to believe.

 

Box your thought in with 4 simple reasons why your thought makes sense.

 

A lot of people suggest always providing your thought and one reason to believe support <simple linear support> but the best training I received made the point that this makes your thought more vulnerable to questioning and, if possible <unless you have one undeniable blockbuster reason to believe> you should figure out a simple way to show simple complexity demands nuances smartness.

 

I imagine what I am saying in this aspect is you want to protect your words, thoughts and ideas from shrinking. And the way to do so is to effectively build a wall around them. Without the wall, the protection, the thought can get squeezed until it no longer exists … and you shrink a little every time that happens.

 

 

  • The easy one: avoid hyperbole like it is the plague

 

Hyperbole creates a gap, an empty space, in between reality and some quasi-imagined reality.

 

Uhm.

 

fill-emptiness-empty-with-various-thingsEmpty space to a listener/questioner/debater is like sugar for ants. Our tendency is almost always to make problems look bigger and successes more successful … it makes us look more heroic. But in our tendency to do so it actually … well … shrinks us. The truth is many of us think our jobs are fairly mundane and when discussing what we do, and have done, publicly we think “who the hell wants to hear this?” and then head down the path to make what we do, or did, look less mundane and more challenging or exciting.

 

Media training helps you see this.

And what you do is not worry about what you do but rather show how much you love what you do, or did, which breathes some helium into it and makes it look bigger. Suffice it to say it is incredibly difficult for someone to shrink what you like and what you are passionate about than it is to poke a hole in the empty space created by hyperbole and shrink the entire thought to a shriveled balloon status.

 

 

Ok.

 

Why did I bring this up today?

 

Well.

 

Sigh.

 

It becomes more obvious everyday … the shrinking of America right before our eyes.

 

Yesterday I watched President Donald J Trump stand at one podium and the president of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, at another podium. As they each trump santos colombiaspoke I watched Trump shrink before our eyes and America along with him.

 

The adult at the front of the room was a president … just of Columbia.

 

No offense to Columbia or the Columbian president but I don’t expect a country whose economy is 42 times smaller than the US Economy to have a president who sounds smarter, speaks smarter, shares smarter information and handles himself more smartly than the president of the USA. Let alone watching the poor Columbian President trying to be diplomatic when he clearly wanted to look at Trump and say “are you a complete fucking idiot?”

 

It bothered me a little less as we watched Angela Merkel of Germany a month ago stand side by side with Donald J Trump and his words and speech made him shrink before our eyes <and earned Merkel the title of ‘leader of the free world’>.

Yeah.

That’s tough competition for any president so while I cringed at the shrinkage I figured it may be one of Donald J’s most difficult contrast & comparison situations.

 

But in between yesterday’s unfortunate public display and Merkel’s hint of what was to come we see time and time again he is placed side by side with the leader of another country and he shrinks in comparison as soon as they both start talking.

 

By the way … this is a problem.

Not just for Donald J Trump but also for America.

 

When he shrinks in comparison America shrinks globally. This doesn’t mean we will not retain the world’s largest economy which demands that people have to deal with America regardless … but … it effectively shrinks our leadership role globally.

 

Sigh.

 

I honestly don’t know what I would do with Donald J Trump if I was his communications director. I know I would be honest with the Trumpster and say “stop giving interviews because you don’t know when to stop talking” … “don’t answer in paragraphs but rather in sentences because you cannot assemble a coherent paragraph thought” … “never talk about yourself when standing side by side with a peer”“lets schedule some more of those fake campaign speeches  in front of your few rabid followers so you can feel free and complain about everyone & everything and explain how great you are because they will love it.”

 

I also know my honesty would get my ass fired so quickly don’t blink because you would miss my time in the White House.

 

Media training is a pain in the ass but in its pain it grinds you down to reality about yourself. You learn to duck the bad comparisons a little better and seek the opportunities to contrast positively a little better.

 

stop this train add up

 

I don’t believe we need a member of the Mensa society to be the president or even to be effective in positively contrasting themselves in a tough situation in which the other is smart, thoughtful & articulate. But you do need someone who is self-aware in the moment & environment. Media training almost above any other training you may receive in business harshly introduces you to self-awareness.

 

What I do know is that without some very harsh media and communications training President Trump will continue to shrink in comparison time and time again.

windows of opportunity

May 15th, 2017

 dream big opportunities

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“Oh, How insanely outside the window

О,   как   безумно   за       окном

 

Howls and rages the evil storm,

Ревёт, бушует  буря злая”

 

Alexander Blok

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“Every advantage is temporary.”

 

Katerina Stoykova Klemer

 

==========================

 

“The weather-cock on the church spire, though made of iron, would soon be broken by the storm-wind if it did not understand the noble art of turning to every wind.”

 

Heinrich Heine

 

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In business we talk incessantly about visions and missions and purpose and strategic objectives and important long term type thinking to insure everyone get out of the way window wallknows where they are going and how they will go about doing it.

 

We worry about how to smartly effectively compete.

 

We worry through some fairly random details, talk about being the best and then … uhm … proceed to be anything but the best.

 

So … you know what?

If you are better and have a better offering and are truly worth a shit and want people to know you are worth a shit … well then … there is no real intellectual challenge.

 

You get on with getting on.

 

I am not suggesting being stupid about competing.

Nor am I suggesting bludgeoning the industry and competitors with some dull edged hammer.

 

I mean … for god’s sake we can talk forever on all the topics I just listed and Walls To Windows of opportunity businessstew over all the long term type shit … but … we all know the holy grail of business success actually resides in ‘windows of opportunity.’

 

Now.

 

Windows of opportunity arise all the time if you are paying attention.

 

As I have noted before ‘white space’ analysis in positioning is archaic thinking mostly because it explores a stagnant 2 dimensional industry when in reality any business in today’s world is 4 dimensional, at its most simplistic, and constantly moving & a swirl of constant activity in which no one competitor is ever truly standing still.

 

What that means is, basically, in today’s business world you set out down a road you want to go down and seek small windows in the chaos of normal business activity to “hit the hole.” Just like as a running back there is a huge mass of men & pads in front of you and you ‘just get going’ assuming a hole will open and you get through it.

Ah.

And then … of course … there are the windows that get placed in front of you. you don’t need to go looking for them … they are just there.

 

Windows of opportunities come in all shapes and sizes but the one you kill for is the opportunity for a stark contrast.

 

Stark contrast is the holy trinity of windows because it is the opportunity to create distinction, separation and build value. Uhm. That is if you actually use this window of opportunity correctly.

 

We assess this type of window two ways <because stark contrast also represents potential issues>.

 

  • A stark contrast shouldn’t really come at the obvious detriment of a competitor. While a stark contrast certainly represents an opportunity to laugh at a competitor or possibly make them look foolish to do so is to miss the larger opportunity. The larger opportunity isn’t to diminish their value to make yours look bigger but rather use a stark contrast to leverage more value for you.

 

  • A stark contrast really shouldn’t come at the obvious detriment of the category/industry. This one is a little tricky but is a corollary to my first point. You don’t want to make the category look stupid or ‘less than.’ A part of how you conduct your business is protecting the larger institution. In other words … you never sacrifice the greater institution simply to try and gain a temporary advantage for yourself. .

navle gazing The Grass Is Greener On The other side

<note: both of these are incredibly hard lessons to maintain in a highly competitive, selfish thinking, short term view business world>

 

And then, of course, even if we do think those two things through well and then take that temporary advantage offered us I will note that we, in business, are incredibly poor at knowing when to quit the contrast so we keep pounding the nail into the board even though it is already all the way in.

 

That said.

 

The true value of this stark contrast opportunity is distinction. Why do I put such a high value n distinction?

 

Distinction is one of those fabulous things that the more you try to be distinct the less likely you will actually be so <at least in a meaningful way>.

 

And if I could convince more companies to think about this with clear heads I am not sure I would make any more money but I am sure they would.

i know, I know … easy for me to say.

 

But the pursuit of the elusive distinction can sometimes drive businesses to some fairly irrelevant, if not absurd, and absolutely meaningless places. I know it sounds crazy but, if they ignored it, I bet it would happen. Well. It would happen if they were smart about focusing on themselves … who they were and who they wanted to be … uhm … and took the temporary advantage offered them in stark contrast windows of opportunity.

 

So let’s call it a crazy smart idea.

 

But tough to do <as most crazy smart ideas are>. Tough because it doesn’t everything can be figured outexactly match up with the standard “this is how you are supposed to do it” management guides. Waiting for opportunities isn’t something that they teach you in ‘how to aggressively beat the crap out of your competition in the industry” school.

 

Anyway.

 

Maybe that is the most important point.

 

There are a lot, a shitload, of crazy smart business people out there.

But there are not a lot of crazy smart business people who seem to be willing to do something crazy like ignore the business books “plan to success” blueprints.

 

Here is where I put my money.

The few. Those crazy enough to not plan for distinction but rather let distinction and originality simply evolve from who they are, what they think and their vision of what they think they should be and the ones who ‘get going’ smartly to starkly contrast themselves when a window opens.

 

Crazy?

Probably.

 

But in a world where the majority of businesses, and new ideas, fail … maybe this isn’t a crazy a thought as it sounds.

 

And, at its core, the concept of what I just outlined isn’t that crazy because businesses are always seeking an advantage.

And they should.

 

I imagine the point I am going to make is that most businesses don’t consider ‘advantage’ as temporary. When it actually happens … they treat it as sustainable.

And ultimately that becomes their downfall.

Windows of opportunity close. And 90% of the time they close quickly. And maybe that is where the ‘sustainable ‘ belief really screws most businesses. They jump through the window of opportunity, and let’s say they even treat the stark contrast opportunity correctly and do all the right things, they then act like they are going to stay on that side of the window <acting as if the advantage and opportunity is sustainable>.

be wrong stand in your wrongness divide

Wrong.

Bad decision.

 

Windows of opportunity are meant to be jumped through … opportunity maximized … and then you jump back before it closes again.

 

Why?

 

Stark contrasts are most typically contextual to a certain situation. Most businesses are smart enough if they give you a stark contrast opportunity to actually change the context to insure the contrast opportunity ceases.

In addition … knowledge never stops. Knowledge, in and of itself, changes environment … it is never stagnant.

 

Sustainable advantage is really rare.

Extremely rare.

 

And, frankly, many businesses are actually too slow to take advantage of their … well … advantage. The window of advantage does not stay open long.

 

Businesses work to gain it. They get it. They build plans to take advantage of the advantage. They go and do … and … well … their advantage is not only as advantageous as it used to look but in many cases it is no longer even the advantage that you thought it was. The window is closed. Oh. Maybe worse? To dirty windowyour dismay you look around the room and another frickin’ window is open.

Damn.

Wrong window at the wrong time.

 

Ok.

 

My last point on a stark contrast window of opportunity.

 

While everything I just discussed is about opportunity to build value and distinction a stark contrast opportunity offers you the one thing which is the one thing you dream about as a business – an interested person.

In general, in a sea of business sameness and a cluttered world of meaningless communication, whether you are trying to sell something or showcase value you will be faced with a great barrier of lack of interest.

 

People, in general, don’t care until they have to care.

I would like to point out that while we all say “the greatest thing since sliced bread” that sliced bread was not that great to people in the beginning … people just didn’t care about sliced bread … they liked what they had <unsliced>.

 

Anyway.

 

The corollary to that thought?

 

Everything is interesting at some point.

Yup.

Everything.

 

obsessed uninterested switchIt’s all about uncovering the most relevant time to be relevant <and interesting>. Pick the wrong time and you waste $’s because the consumer just doesn’t care. Be interesting at the right time and the brand becomes relevant <and sales increase>.

Whenever I bring this topic up oddly <in general> I find everyone gravitating to the ends of the spectrum … half believe whatever their widget is that everyone is interested in it … and the other half suggest the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and people don’t care about anything.

 

Regardless.

 

Assume people don’t care about what it is you want to tell them. And assume they don’t care about your product <until you do something wrong>.

 

But the one time you may actually have a chance to generate some interest in a stark contrast. Most times your advantage or difference or distinctness is almost indiscernible to the human eye <despite how proud you may be of it>. and that is where a stark contrast offers you the greatest part of the opportunity – it is discernible.

 

All businesses need to remember that people just don’t care until they have to care … but people always care about vivid comparisons and take note of hem in a grayish world — that is why you take advantage of stark contrasts windows of opportunity.

 

That’s it for businesses and stark contrast windows of opportunity.

 

In general … stark contrast opportunity or not, personally, I believe many businesses mismanage any ‘advantage’ opportunities.

In attitude and in behavior.

They think incorrectly, or have a flawed view when they think, and implement too slowly. They overthink the wrong things and under think the right things.  They think long term sustainable within what are really short term opportunities. They think of ROI in terms of “time I have maintained active or the advantage” rather than viewing time in a “37 seconds used wisely is a lifetime.”

 

I tend to believe it is because businesses try to simplify as much a possible with the intent to replicate as much as possible. Neither of those thoughts in that last sentence are particularly effective with regard to a stark contrast window of opportunity. Oddly, the pursuit of simplicity increases cumbersome less-than-effective responses.

 

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“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be. The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding global window of opportunitythe other.

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

Life and business <whether we like to admit it or not> is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial <therefore unique is basically artificial in its inevitable obseletion> where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death. We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

 

Everything has to do with everything else.

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”

 

Arturo Perez Revarte

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Whether you want to simplify or not … one of the wisest things you can always keep in mind is … Everything has to do with everything else. Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.

 

Another wise thing to keep in mind is windows of opportunity always arise but the ones that offer stark contrast may be one of the most valuable opportunities you can ever encounter in business.

Enlightened Conflict