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September 17, 2019

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The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’


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Build this powerful, influential skill to help make sense of change, communicate clearly and engage people in the most challenging situations

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    Visual Stories : a template  

    During my visit to New Zealand last week I enjoyed a couple of tasty dinners out with some of the great people from Agile Wellington Meetup and Boost New Media.

    Over a glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir, I noticed how we shared story after story after story - personal stories, travel stories, food stories, funny stories, business stories ... laughter here and there, learning, sharing and connecting. 

    Stories are certainly on the rise! Their value and impact when they are used to communicate key messages across teams and organisations is undeniable too! (You can read more about how to use stories in business in the book 'Hooked: How leaders connect, engage and 
    inspire with storytelling', by my Thought Leadership colleagues Gabrielle Dolan & Yamini Naidu.)


    While telling the stories is one aspect of great communication, recalling and revisiting them later on is another aspect that I think needs greater attention and focus.

    In a client workshop recently, one of the senior leaders shared so many brilliant and inspiring stories throughout the day.  We heard sales stories, planning and project stories, tales of challenge and of achievement and so many other inspiring messages. You could see and feel how well the content, style and messages impacted on the team.

    So that these powerful stories weren't 'lost', I visually captured them.

    This is the type of output I captured for one of the team's sessions. Small circles or vignettes are great shapes to write some words and icons to remind the team of the key content from the stories being shared as we travel along throughout the workshop or meeting. 

    Be sure to relax... you don't need all of the details covered in every story. I often say 'A small visual anchor can hold a weight of information'. You only need a small visual to remind you and others of the detail and content and how you felt about the story and its message. Given you didn't hear the leader's stories from last week, these visuals won't mean so much, but it's the style or design or approach I'm interested in you grasping. 

    So... to make sure you don't 'lose the plot' when it comes to stories, I'm sharing my template.  It makes them Visual Stories and helps prolong their life beyond the telling in the here and now. 

    Click to save it, print it out or sketch out your own series of circles (or other shapes) to collect the key points and learnings the next time you hear a great story you want to remember. Use one circle per story, or one circle for each key point or moral of the story.

    In this way you can quickly review, revisit and retell these chunks of content and information.  

    The end!



    Breakthrough and Backcast  

    I remember a Qantas Airlines business advertisement on TV a few years ago. It went like this: a clichéd facilitator was looking at a business team and asking "where are we now, where do we want to go, how will we get there?"

    Fairly staid questions - typical of most strategy conversations and planning sessions. A big yawn - o! 

    The problem with this thinking is it's so very limiting to possibilities. If we're only dealing with where we are at now, of course our future dreams will be framed by that starting point. Our future thinking is going to be shaped by the steps - challenging or otherwise - that got us here.

    Breakthrough thinking - and backcasting - take a different approach. It suggests you go forward, waaaaay forward to where you want to end up...your end goal. Then work backwards and ask : What did you do just before achieving that end goal? What was the step before that, and the step before that, before that, before that... it looks like this:


    What happens is, it takes us further than forecasting. We can be more adventurous. We will take bigger risks and larger steps. We will create a list of 'next steps' and actions that are more aptly focused on how that end goal was achieved ... not how (unachievable?) the end goal looks from here, now.

    The visual template I use with teams to get them breaking through and backcasting is here in this enews for you. Click and save the template above or sketch out your own.  

    To help you achieve your goal - any goal at all, fundraising, publishing a book, garden design, being appointed to a board, setting up a share portfolio, staring a new business... breakthrough and backcast. Don't plod along and forecast! Breakthrough and backcast. 

    And the Qantas Airlines advertisement? The rest of it went like this: just as quickly as the corny facilitator was saying 'where do we want to go' etc, one of the (naturally, bored) participants had logged on to the airline's website and booked his flights. So quick to decide and act on things like that these days, but longer to get your strategy and steps in place using traditional, old school thinking. 

    I think breakthrough thinking and backcasting are a must for your project, team and business. Pick up an old school marker and get to grips with breaking through on that goal you've got you're eyes on!



    What's important to 'capture' visually?

    I'm often asked how I know when something is important to capture using visuals. This 'graphic recording' or visual approach to working with people in groups and teams is powerful in that for me, it primarily helps people hear each other. 

    People get to truly 'see' what is being said. 

    So out of everything being said, how do I know which parts are important to a group and which parts to leave out?

    Context - What is this whole conversation about for this group - not for me, for them? Keep this in mind - it truly is about the 'big picture'. When you're clear about their purpose, reason, why... you'll be put in the picture about what is important. So take note of the title of the session, the role of the team or the speaker/presenter, the mission or purpose of the meeting or conversations. Whatever is important for them, needs to be listened out for.

    Repetition - when topics, key phrases and content are repeated (by different people - in conversation, presentation, printed material or discussions) I know there is some importance there, so I'll capture it. 

    Pause... talk. When people give a little pause before they present their important phrase or word, I'm listening out, in a BIG way. A common situation is when people say things like ... "I think what this team needs is <tiny pause> more accountability.' And often the words 'more accountability' are delivered a little louder, a little faster or a little slower or in a slightly higher or lower tone. Listen out for the pause or other voice changes outlined in my earlier blog post on what's important and what's waffle. They are a perfect indicator that the speaker is trying to say 'this is important' - so I'll capture that. 


    You can't capture everything - you need to distill, delete, rearrange or economise, so these tips will help you on your way to doing this. 




    Your thoughts, their shoes 

    Are you working on something at the moment for a client, customer, colleague or yourself? Designing or creating something - a solution to a problem, a response to a call for help or a new service or product idea swishing about in your head?

    Whenever you step in to any type of 'design' mode - a response, solution, creation or proposal - you need to bring together your thoughts, and a good dose of 'standing in their shoes'. 

    Yes, that old saying of walking a mile in someone else's shoes gives you a sense of what it's like for them. 

    A visual way of doing that is using an Empathy Map. 

    Here's one I prepared earlier for you!

    Either click and save to print this one, or quickly sketch out the lines and labels on a whiteboard, flip chart or a blank page in front of you. 

    You can use post-it notes to write your thoughts on and then post them on the chart... or you can write directly on the page or canvas. Make the canvas big and it will work brilliantly as a conversation and collaboration tool. It's certain to get diverse views up on the wall!

    And you can keep the chart visible and refer to it to remind yourself - and others - of who you're working on this 'thing' for. 

    I worked with a customer solutions team this week and we collaborated on several Empathy Maps. Rather than talking generally about customers, users or clients 'out there', 'them' or 'those people', we developed a couple of customer personas. These imaginary - but quite true to life - customers kept focus on what they were really thinking, feeling, saying and doing. We gave them names and characteristics that were representative of the target audiences for the program of work.

    It was a quick process to identify what problems and pain we were solving, and what successes or gains we would be delivering. We also included some of the comments from research and focus group conversations that some of the team had been having recently. 

    Ooooh it was a 'rich' and interactive session! 

    With this information as a great foundation, you can then add your own thinking, expertise and input.

    It's one of the key elements to design thinking - start with that empathy, understanding and customer or user perspective. You can find more about Empathy Maps from a wander with Google or in the book Gamestorming.

    Now what are you working on at the moment? How can I help you with that? Let's create an Empathy Map together and see how good thinking and some time in other people's shoes can create a range of brilliant solutions for you and your clients or customers. 


    Take a big bite of simplicity 

    I took a BIG bite out of the Big Apple over the past two weeks in New York City at the International Forum of Visual Practitioners conference. 

    One of the session leaders, Michelle Boos-Stone, referred to Dan and Chip Heath's great book 'Made to Stick : Why some ideas survive and others die' (also called 'Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck'.)

    Right up there, the number one thing that helps ideas stick is that they're  s-i-m-p-l-e. 

    Dan and Chip Heath say:

    "It's hard to make ideas stick in a noisy, unpredictable, chaotic environment. If we're to succeed, the first step is this: Be simple. Not simple in terms of "dumbing down" or "sound bites". You don't have to speak in monosyllables to be simple. What we mean by "simple" is finding the core of the idea. "Finding the core" means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence."


    You might think you know that and do that. But I think we can all do it better. I was providing visual strategy support to a team conference recently where the leader was striving to get people onboard to new ways of working, three new priorities, some new processes, changes in organisational values and .... so much other 'stuff'. How could the team find their way through all of it to implement and lead on it? 

    It would have been refreshing, more impactful and courageous for that leader to find the core in all of that noise. What was it that was truly the priority? Forcing prioritisation is powerful. "Message triage" is what Dan & Chip call it, from one of their case studies and stories in their book.

    Look at something you're now trying to make stick. Find the core, strip it down, what's the real priority? What do you really need people to get a hold of? Communicate that bit.