I think many of my regular readers will agree that I tend to offer content and ideas that are pretty well rounded and often researched for consideration - and action. In fact, I know that many of you agree that you have implemented tips, found the resources actionable, and the questions useful.
Yes, knowing to ask the right questions is the best way to build a solid foundation - in research and measurement by establishing baselines, in business and life by going to the heart of what matters or should be measured in the first place.
Ask the wrong question better and all you get is more precise nothing of use - garbage in, garbage out (GIGO).
They are our way of making sense of the world. Our brain's shortcuts for remembering stuff, by emotional connection. They often contain a narrative fallacy with the teaching.
Urban legends and myths continue to be transmitted from person to person, not because we're gullible. Quite the opposite. We do it because we need to confront and defeat the fear of the unknown and feel a sense of hope. We share our deepest one, that of being extinct, forgotten, ineffective, by taking hold of the most concrete minutiae.
We want to capture what we know and share it because it brings us attention and (potentially) acceptance and even love.
Fear, hope, love.
Indulge me for a short review of the cultural assumptions that drive American choice. You'll see how these are relevant in a current conversation I've observed, which I'll address in a moment. According to Jaime O'Boyle, Senior Analyst, Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, these are:
- Individuals should determine their own destiny
- Individuals should control their social and physical environment
- Authority or “bigness” should be viewed with suspicion
- Actions should be judged in a moral light (philanthropy, for example)
- We should have as many choices as possible
- Anything can and should be improved
- The future should be better than the present
The big question here is how are these assumptions being shaped by our current environment and circumstances. Do we still buy into the hero values? What are our new archetypes?
How is our identity being shaped by derivative values (I'm cool because I'm wearing this jacket) vs. reflective values (this jacket is cool because I'm wearing it)? How much do relationships and context influence how we validate who we are to ourselves?
Businesses are made of people
People naturally gravitate to campfires, where those who share values gather to tell stories about who they are, how they got there, and what is expected of them. Think of virtual communities and social networks like Facebook.
Data point - technology has connected us in ways we could not have imagined, yet it has contributed also to our sense of isolation. The world is indeed flat, yet we may not know our neighbors.
Necessity also drives us to waterholes, where hierarchy rules. Think about the dreaded mandatory Monday morning office meetings, for example. This is also the opportunity place, to put it with Peter Block, for
"leaders to create the conditions that foster accountability and commitment, through their power to focus attention and to define the conversations for people when they gather.
So the leader’s job is to design gatherings and conversations that get peers engaged with each other—with the leader as a powerful member instead of a parent.
That’s redesigning the social space in which people gather. Just as design is about visual space, leadership is about social space."
Changing the conversation
We are searching for new guideposts that can help us rebalance our sense of control over our environment and help us create what Haque defines thick value. In many cases, that means rebooting the business model to find direction and purpose again.
Fear, hope, love. Those are the main drivers of human action - and interaction. If we agree that the value inherent in activities is given by the actor, the person(s) engaging in them, and the clarity so many seek is of the business to give, then how do we move people to act and business leaders to find purpose?
Jason, Scott, all of you in the comments - the answer to how is yes, there's barely time to get enough of the work done that builds the bottom line. The hacks you so lament about in your posts (have we gotten that out of the system already?) have replaced in numbers all those who were communicators and marketers only a few short years ago.
The art of conversation
There is a more fundamental challenge ahead of us than unmasking people with no experience in a profession. The challenge is leadership. Compassion and empathy are part of that. Providing the right example by doing yes, and by educating and seeing others as potential teachers, too.
Companies and businesses want to make a buck - so do individuals. Neither group is justified in how it goes about it if that means anything other than honest means. Yet, the leadership conversation is about creating abundance, not a narrower present.
Look at the cultural underpinnings, look at the context. There is tremendous opportunity for all of us to contribute to growth - in different ways and roles. Stop making sweeping generalizations and provide effective criticism. The comments here are open day and night and you get to poke holes in my logic and presentation, for example.
Number one on my to do list - learn more about the people in my business to offer better ways to help them reach *their* goals. Jay did have it right when he talked about what really changes the game in this new environment. Companies can now take their message directly to customers - and hear their feedback in real time.
This and the many other operational aspects of conversation can be a temporary replacement for those businesses that have not built a product or service that itself is the conversation with customers. And for those who have not found the customers for their product and service conversation, with the hope they exist as well as those businesses that are built to collaborate. There will be more of those in the next couple of years.
Indeed, in trying to find order within process and many of the - dare I say? - invented (and mature) disciplines of marketing and communications, we look for control because of fear, hope, love. From the master of the distinction between theory and practice:
"I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world. What I did not understand is the relation among signs . . . I behaved stubbornly, pursuing a semblance of order, when I should have known well that there is no order in the universe."
"But in imagining an erroneous order you still found something. . . ."
"What you say is very fine, Adso, and I thank you. The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless . . . The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away."
- Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, Seventh Day, Night
As my friend Peter said before me - agreement is often the greatest misunderstanding. Talk can and does change our lives. Just not in exactly the ways we planned for, heh.
[image of playing with fire by jswieringa]
© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.