A Dozen Thoughts on Thinking, Communicating and Relationships

IdeaGapActionHere are a dozen thoughts that were on my mind as a new week begins. 

1. Listening is not the same as waiting to speak. It isn't nodding your head. It is being able to restate what the person said so that they know that you were listening.


2. Context matters. Just because you are an expert about one thing, doesn't mean that you are an expert in how that one thing relates to all things. Where you stand, your perspective, is just that your perspective. Respect your perspective, don't worship it.


3. Other people's context matters. Being influenced by a wide diversity of perspectives, broadens and deepens your own perspective. Build relationships with the widest possible collection of people. Your network should represent your curiosity, not your insecurities.


4. Real world experience matters. But it doesn't mean that you understand your experience. If you are not testing your ideas against experience, and your experience against other people's ideas, how can you say you are an expert? It is safer to think of yourself as a one learner among billions rather than the one expert among them.


5. IMHO isn't. Saying, "Here's what I think. What about you?" is.


6. Asking questions isn't doubting, but learning. Questions reveal truth. Questions reveal whether someone's ideas are clear, coherent, intellectually honest and have some connection to the way the world actually works. Develop strong BS filters by learning to ask hard questions.


7. Be careful of people who prohibit questions because you don't understand their "system."


8. Thinking something doesn't mean you know it. Just because a thought is in your head, doesn't mean you understand it, can explain it or apply it to someone's context. The quickest way to discover whether you understand your thoughts is to say them out loud. Verbalizing ideas is the shortest route to understanding what you really think. 


9. Practice reveals character. Before opening your mouth, and revealing how poorly thought out your ideas are, write them down, stand in front of a mirror and say them, or find someone who will listen and give you honest advice.


10. Never give a new presentation in front of an audience of strangers. Find someone who will listen and critique it first. Fix, then practice, practice, practice.


11. People's experience with you is more important than your ideas. Reverse that. Your ideas are only as good as the emotional experience that people have with them. Integrity and authenticity, not manipulation, are the keys to aligning your ideas with your audience's emotions. You must know your own emotions related to your ideas if you want to elicit authentic emotions from your audience.


12. Be your own BEST critic, not worst. Think for yourself. Don't be an expert on one thing. Be an expert of how many things are connected to your one thing. Don't accept someone's "informed" opinion as "completely and absolutely the last word." Read, study, ask questions, form your opinions, test them, practice them, write them down, speak about them from the heart and do this everyday.  In the end, you won't know more than anyone else. However, you will know what you don't know, and that will make the difference that matters.

Garr Reynolds on Simplicity

Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen recently spoke at the Cytrix Synergy conference on the topic of simplicity. The video of this 45 minute presentation by Garr is only available at the Duarte blog.

Garr's presentation - Simplicity and the art of thinking differently - should be watched with a eye and ear to Matt May's just published In Pursuit of Elegance (read my review) and John Maeda's The Laws of Simplicity. There is a message here that is important. Here's my take.

Simplicity isn't simplistic or superficial, but rather a higher state of development.

To be simple is to see clearly what was obscured by many competing notions and distractions.

To be simple makes it easier to communicate, to connect with others and to create the collaborative organizational structures that we need.

To be simple is to create a more elegant product or service or even an organization.

To be simple is to see and understand what is happening as it is taking place.

To be simple is to know how to resolve issues and conflicts before they rise to the level of crisis.

The influence of Garr Reynolds, Matt May and John Maeda on my thinking is giving me new insight into the nature of leadership. I will share more as I consolidate my thoughts into something coherent and clear. Until then, read them, listen to them, and begin to imagine how simplicity and elegance can become ways your work is recognized by clients and colleagues.

In Addition: Wally Bock links to this NYTimes article about Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice-chairman of WalMart where he speaks about simplicity.

I read something early on when I was in my first or second management role that you can accomplish almost anything in life if you do not care who takes credit for it. So I’ve tried to do more of that. And I’ve tried to do less of the things that make business more complex. I really like simplicity. At the end of the day, retailing - but you could apply this to many other businesses - is not as complicated as we would like to make it. It is pretty logical and simple, if you think about the way that you yourself would act, or do act, as a customer.

Quick Takes: Six Tips for Remote Presentations - Nancy Duarte

After almost 14 years of consulting, there is only one need that everyone of my clients has had. What is it? Better communication.

Nancy Duarte has created a very, very helpful guide to effective presentations given  remotely. Slideology

Take a few minutes and watch it.  Take notes, and bookmark it for future reference. It is basic stuff, but that's what often gets missed. Then go practice it.

Nancy is the author of the excellent guide to presentations - Slide:ology. 

You can watch her talk about the book here.

Here's what I'm doing in response her Six Tips presentation.

I'm sending the link to friends. After they have watched it and responded back to me, I'm suggesting that we create a group to help one another learn how to master these skills. Presentations really shouldn't be created in isolation. I think of them as feature films that require a high level of collaboration to make them work.