One time she approached a traffic cop with the question. He patiently explained were she was to turn and go. When he was done, he asked her if she understood and remembered the directions and she said she did.
His next question was - tell me how I get there, then.
She stumbled through several corrections and had to redo a couple of times, but eventually she was able to repeat it. That was the only time she got to her appointment without having to approach someone else for directions. She got there because she had to visualize for herself how to do it. That's what made the cop's "how" hit home.
I see it all the time in conference evaluation forms: "speaker didn't tell me how to do something". Often they did, you just couldn't play it back because you're not executing or visualizing it. The other case is that when the speaker gave you plenty of "how-to"s, you're happy, but you are never going to execute on them. You know why?
Instead of Benchmarking, Start Bench Pressing
Do you ever wonder why the usual posts and articles with what seems like the same advice over and over get so much traffic and comments? I do.
The "how" question answers whether the authors are actually implementing the advice or just talking about it, for starters. But that's not all. Are they asking and answering the bigger question? The question that would and does warrant a response before any "how". Surprisingly, the answer is not just "because".
It's great that one can sit down at a conference and hear someone from a large organization implement a Second Life program, or a large scale integrated program with all sorts if good content and tools. Now tell me, how are you going to implement that within your resource constraints? Cut Second Life? Cut the events? Do Webinars instead?
What makes their program successful is the marketing foundation - and budget - they have, their company culture, the number of staff working on it, and their services that lend themselves to the tools. Are you going to tell me their "how" applies to you?
Furthermore, even if it did, your results may vary depending on the relationship you have with your customers and the challenges your business faces in the first place. And I'll throw in something for you to think about - I want to know that you've done it.
I want to know that one to three months after you attended that session you raved about you actually executed on the advice.
Stop Whining, Start Winning
It will be helpful when and if you do because you can then build on your experience at the next event. Which is a much better alternative to not learning as much as you thought you would. You cannot delegate your experience - you have it proportional to your desire to be involved and active.
Social media is not the same destination for everyone. Often the question is not "how" exactly you get there - that is probably more appropriate for you to figure out. There are better questions.
For example, why do what and who is going to be involved? Critical thinking needs to marry common sense. You're responsible for the critical thinking. Or, you could pay someone to do it for you according to your specific circumstances.
Critical thinking is not in the scope of work of a conference talk or even a brief discussion in the hallway. It's more like what you'd get in a workshop where you get to actually do things yourself. It's in your daily work routine that needs to change. If you haven't been doing the work, your answers will be mismatched to the questions.
The Answer to How is Yes
Why? That is the crux, why is a much more difficult questions than how and we continue to skirt it with volumes of "how-to"s. The challenge is to rethink basic cultural assumptions. Block asks how the pervasive archetypes of engineer and economist - those of cause-and-effect and predictability - could truly share the stage with the creativity, imagination, mystery and heart of the artist and architect.
He talks about change, which is what is holding you back. You think you can just apply the same learning mechanisms and terminology of traditional marketing to social media. It's an entirely new way of thinking about the question that needs to take place.
How do I get more customers to buy more? How do I get more new customers? The answer to how is yes. You need to want to do it - really do it. Your customers are telling you and each other how, you're just not listening. Or they would tell you if you gave them the chance - if you just asked.
But, you're just like the conference attendee who's constantly hoarding information they're never going to use.
[images of IBM ad campaign and Peter Block redesign of social space]