01 June 2018

Books of Summer

"A person only learns in two ways, one is by reading, and the other by association with smarter people."

--Will Rogers

Read any good books lately?

A close look at the U.S. populous finds Millennials are the top readers.  According to the latest Pew Research Center study on reading, 18-29 year olds are the age group most likely to have read a book in any format in the past year.  And they generally prefer print to e-books, which have plateaued since 2016.

The Pew study shows the typical American having read four books in the past year. 

What to read?

We love books and our reading list generally comes from recommendations and reviews. 

If you're in a position of leadership, here are five books in our 2018 summer library that would contribute to your personal and professional development:

1. "Character."  By Samuel Smiles.  Serenity Publishing.  254 pages.

"Character is one of the great motive powers in the world.  In its noblest embodiments it exemplifies human nature in its highest forms."  --Samuel Smiles

We can't say enough about this topic.  Character is a strength that's often overlooked when interviewing, and assessing personnel.   The right character, and its many attributes (honesty, integrity, manners), are needed now more than ever.

2. "Silence."  By Erling Kagge.  Pantheon Publishers.  144 pages. 

"Twenty-five years ago, the Norwegian adventurer Erling Kagge trekked solo across Antarctica without a radio (actually, the aviation company that flew him to the coast insisted that he take one, and he did—but he dumped the batteries in the plane’s trash bin). The experience of being alone for 50 days inspired this book: a meditation on the need for, and meaning of, silence."

--The Wall Street Journal BookShelf 

3. "On Grand Strategy."  By John Lewis Gaddis.  Penguin Press.  384 pages.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.   

"The best education in grand strategy available in a single volume ... a long walk with a single, delightful mind."  --John Nagl

4. "Lead Yourself First."  By Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin. Bloomsbury USA.  240 pages.  

A guide to the role of solitude in good leadership, including profiles of historical and contemporary figures who have used solitude to lead with courage, creativity, and strength. 

--Publisher's comments.  

5. "Alone Together."  By  Sherry Turkle.  Basic Books. 400 pages.   

"Technology has become the architect of our intimacies.  Online we fall prey to the illusion of companionship, gathering thousands of Twitter and Facebook friends, and confusing tweets and wall posts with authentic communication.  But this relentless connection leads to deep solitude.   As technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down."   

--Publisher's comments.


To quote Wordsworth ...

"Books, we know, 
Are a substantial world, both pure and good,
Round which, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and our happiness can grow."


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(C) Bredholt & Co.






01 May 2018

The Persuader's Tool Box

"Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion."

--Aristotle


In case you're just joining us we're examining the concept of "persuasion."  In March we began with Dr. Robert Cialdini's research on this topic, "A Short Course in Persuasion."

Then in April we looked at a perplexing condition sometimes referred to as, "Partial Attention Syndrome."

We now turn to the "persuader" with the assumption that what's being proposed is of a clear and ethical purpose.  The warning for nefarious activity is found in an old proverb, "Lead good people down a wrong path and you'll come to a bad end."   

The tool box

Creating a "persuader's tool box" is one way of addressing a variety of leadership styles, settings, and topics. In doing so it reminds me of my dad's tool boxes which were filled with hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and tape measures.       


Image result for images of a tool box

Here's a tool that's often overlooked--a question. Whether it's a formal presentation or conversation, what will make the listener want to agree with you?  And in your situation, what's the best way to make that happen?

In addition to a legitimate proposition, and asking the right questions, what else should be in the persuader's tool box?

o  A persuasive theory

A persuasive theory seeks a favorable response from the audience.  It begins with "why."    

Carefully chosen language becomes a motivating argument which causes others to want to decide in favor of (fill in the blank).  The theory, or reason to believe you, should be communicated succinctly in a few sentences. Offering too much information is likely to overwhelm an audience.  


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Think how preparation in the early stages might improve the chances for success.  Sorting through information ahead of time makes it easier to understand what you're asking people to do.  It's the job of the presenter to sort, not the audience.

As Robert Louis Stevenson once said, "All speech is a dead language until if finds a willing hearer." 

o  Stories and themes

Our research business was asked to help arrange a mock jury.  The law firm and jury consultant put the package together. Recruiting participants was up to our staff.  It was that engagement which prompted a closer examination of how lawyers try to persuade juries. 

What did we learn?

Experienced courtroom practitioners attempt to know their juries (or judges), while rolling out what they hope is a persuasive theory of the case (See United States Government v. Microsoft Corp., 2001)


Image result for images for microsoft logo

"A skillful trial attorney knows how important it is to join a series of facts with a unifying theme as jurors deliberate and rely on themes to sort out the evidence.  If attorneys don't provide the theme jurors will do it for themselves," according to University of Washington law professor, William S. Bailey. 

Employees, customers, voters, even congregational members, are juries of their own making and require context by which to make decisions.  

In his autobiography, prominent litigation attorney David Boies writes: "There is much to be said for staying on message, but when you seek to persuade, you must address the concerns of the people you are trying to convince."  


Image result for images for coca cola

What's the difference between a story (Coca-Cola's history) and theme ("More Than a Soda Company")?  

"Stories are about the growth of character.  They provide the mythic and emotional skeleton.  Themes are the development of ideas and conceptual coherence," says Tristine Rainer.  Powerful themes are those that resonate with ordinary human beings.  A good theme acts like glue enabling a few details to stick.    

Ask yourself--do you need a story or theme to persuade?  Likely both.   

o  Rule of 3  

Writing in Forbes Magazine, Carmine Gallo makes a strong case for staying close to the "Rule of 3" when presenting ideas.  Gallo begins by quoting the U.S. Declaration of Independence which celebrates three inalienable rights:

-Life
-Liberty
-And the pursuit of happiness


Image result for images declaration of independence

He reminds us that those three powerful ideas inspired France to arrange its own freedoms into groups of three--"liberty, equality, and fraternity."

Gallo says Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, loved threes.  Macintosh; iPod; and iPhone.  The iPad came in three models:  16, 32, and 64 GB of flash storage.  The iPad was "thinner, lighter, and faster than the original."  

While our April StrategistBlog reported that attention spans have much to do with the person and context, using only three pieces of information (or words) increases the likelihood of some retention on the part of the listener.

Maybe that's why preachers are trained to prepare three-not four or five--point sermons.  

The longer the list the more difficult the recall.  

You get the idea.

o  Five persuasive words

Gregory Ciotti is a gifted copywriter.  I came across his "copyblogger" website and found his wordsmithing approach to persuasion intriguing.   

Here's a list of Gregory's "five persuasive words:"  

1. You     

Using someone's name is even better.

2. Free   

But used only when it makes sense and only in the right context.

3. Because   

People simply like to have a reason for doing what they do (Dr. Cialdini). 

4. Instantly  

We want things yesterday.  This idea is showing up everywhere.

5. New

New fixes to old problems.  New features, improvements.  New designs.

o The 3-6-9 principle

When it comes to messaging, which is central to persuading, I recommend clients think about the 3-6-9 principle from Robert Dilenschneider.  Mr. Dilenschneider is a professional acquaintance who, fifteen years ago, conducted a seminar for a board retreat that featured this multiplication formula:  

3x:   Number of times it takes to make an impression.

6x:   Number of times it takes to be reached.

9x:   Number of times it takes to be believed.  

Image result for images for the word repetition

This reinforcing matrix is a reminder that once is hardly enough when attempting to deliver persuasive-type messages.    

o  Who you are

Content and context are vital to persuading--including the right platforms. But nothing is as important as your own character.  

A lot of what it takes to get and hold someone's attention, to be persuasive, rests with the individual doing the persuading.  At the beginning Aristotle reminded us of a strong causal relationship between character and convincing others.  

The tool box may help but successful persuasion is up to you.


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(C) Bredholt & Co.


Note:  Images are copyrighted--Stack On; New York Times; Microsoft; Coca-Cola; U.S. National Archives; dreamsOin1digital



  

   


01 April 2018

Partial Attention Syndrome

"Marketing is a contest for people's attention."

--Seth Godin 


In the second installment of our three-part series on "persuasion" we look at the necessity of having someones attention since you can’t persuade without it.

Getting and holding attention is difficult with smart technologies consuming more of our time.   Consulting firm Activate, Inc. estimates people spend 12 hours a day on average consuming tech and media, including moments when they're multitasking.      


Image result for images of media
(C) Social Media 4
While attention is a precondition of persuasion, it's not the only one.  Perhaps more important is having a message or proposition of interest to the audience. Combining attention with a legitimate message gives a speaker, sales representative, teacher or parent at least a chance to persuade.

Overtaken by short-lived images in movies and commercials, and long-winded talks with no substance, we're drawn to that which stands out.  When it comes to creating content, simplicity and truthfulness are attractive qualities to receptive minds.

A new kind of addiction

Technology-enabled addiction to information was given a name by Linda Stone, a former Apple and Microsoft executive who in 1998 referred to this condition as "continuous partial attention."  

Ms. Stone observed that drinking from a fire hose of information created "an artificial sense of constant crisis."   She noted that since these crises are generally someplace else, "We are everywhere except where we actually are physically."  


Image result for images of checking  mobile phones
(C) Broadly Vice
What does it mean when leadership itself is afflicted with continuous partial attention?  How does one think deeply and act clearly without having moments where the mind is free of addictive behavior?  

Constantly checking ones mobile devices during important meetings doesn't seem like a safe way to steer a corporation.   

Preoccupied pilots

On October 21, 2009, distracted by their duties, two Northwest Airlines pilots overshot their destination by 150 miles on a flight from San Diego, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Northwest flight 188 was out of radio contact with flight controllers for 77 minutes that day.

The flight, with 144 passengers and three flight attendants, landed safely at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport but not before causing a great deal of concern in the air and on the ground.


Image result for image airbus A 320 northwest airlines
(C) Airliners Gallery
Captain Timothy Cheney and First Officer Richard Cole, both with spotless records, testified that they were "glued to their laptops, puzzling over a new flight scheduling system."  What should have taken ten minutes extended so long that U.S. controllers asked them to execute "confidence turns" to prove that the pilots, not hijackers, were in charge of the plane.

An FAA investigation later stated that the pilots suffered from a loss of "situational awareness" which contributed to the overflight and co-pilot Cole setting the radio frequency to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada instead of Minneapolis.   

The Airbus A-320 has a mechanism for sending text messages to planes in flight.  Unfortunately, there's no chime or aural alarm, thus the pilots were not aware of communication, initiated by the Federal Aviation Administration, to reach them.

Distractions are ever-present, and potentially fatal.

The goldfish myth

Do you recall reading about a study published by Microsoft Canada showing the human attention span dwindling from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013?  That finding was compared to the average attention span of a goldfish which was thought to be nine seconds.  


Image result for images of goldfish
(C) Fish Keeping Magazine
This information was reported by TIME Magazine, USA Today and the New York Times. Reference was made to the Microsoft study in a StrategistBlog post. 

The Consumer Insights team at Microsoft Canada surveyed 2,000 Canadians and studied the brain activity of 112 individuals as they went through daily routines.  This idea of a shortened human attention span, a "fact" popularized by the report, does not come from Microsoft research.   That goldfish tidbit was actually sourced by Statistic Brain.  Upon further examination the finding does not hold up well under scrutiny.  

Dr. Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at Open University, told Simon Maybin of BBC World Service, that when it comes to listening, "It's very much task dependent.  How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is...and what the individual brings to that situation," concludes Dr. Briggs.

Spending almost a half a century studying fish behavior, Professor Felicity Huntingford stated that goldfish don't have short attention spans or memories, and there's no reliable evidence human spans are shrinking.  
  
Chance favors preparation

Dr. Robert Cialdini, featured in the March StrategistBlog post, "A Short Course in Persuasion," offers this advice ...

"The most important part of any argument is preparing the audience to be convinced by it."

Dr. Cialdini's research shows that the secret to persuasion doesn't lie in the message itself but in the moment before the message is delivered.    

Therefore when it comes to changing minds or behavior, and regardless of a delivery platform, it's the responsibility of a speaker to gain attention, not the audience to automatically give it.


Related image
(C) dixit.es

If you're trying to persuade others to do something out of the ordinary, think about "preparing the audience" as a way of capturing attention; creating empathy; meeting expectations; and motivating for response.   

In a partial attention environment, the successful persuader understands it's preparation above all. 
           


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(C) Bredholt & Co.

  


  



















01 March 2018

A Short Course in Persuasion

"There is no expedient to which a person will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking."

--Dr. Robert Cialdini


In the first of a series of posts on the topic of "persuasion," we look at Dr. Cialdini's ideas and research findings.  They're the result of a lifetime of study while serving as professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, and as visiting professor at Stanford University. 

Quotable quotes

Recently Farnam Street newsletter offered quotes from Dr. Cialdini on persuasion. Here are four that caught our attention ...

"We seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don't."

"Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent are initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer."

"In part, the answer involves an essential but poorly appreciated tenet of all communication: what we present first changes the way people experience what we present next."

"As the stimuli saturating our lives continue to grow more intricate and variable, we will have to depend increasingly on our shortcuts to handle them all."

A path to successful persuasion

Here are Dr. Cialdini's six "Principles of Persuasion:"

No. 1: Reciprocity


Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.

No. 2: Scarcity

People want more of those things they can have less of.

No. 3: Authority

This is the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.

No. 4: Consistency

People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done.

No. 5: Liking

People prefer to say "yes" to those that they like.

No. 6: Consensus

Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own.

Learn more about the six principles.

His book, "Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion," which has sold more than three million copies, may be purchased here.



www.strategist.com

(C) Bredholt & Co.



01 February 2018

Stratagem Horribilis

"Effective strategists are not people who abstract themselves from the daily detail but quite the opposite: they are the ones who immerse themselves in it, while being able to abstract the strategic messages from it."

--Henry Mintzberg

The Battle of Passchendaele

The disturbance at the infamous World War I battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres), conducted between July and November 1917, was not the wind but the rain, Northeastern France's heaviest rainfall in 30 years. It was sunny when the plans were made at corps headquarters; as a result, 275,000 British troops fell. 1

According to historians the goal of British commander, Sir Douglas Haig, was to destroy German submarine bases on the Belgium northeast coast. Going through British-held Ypres was the chosen route. 


Image result for pictures of sir douglas haig
Sir Douglas Haig
Commander in Chief, British Armies
World War I
(C) The Long, Long Trail UK

The critics argued that the planning of Passchendaele, in the fields of Flanders, was carried out in almost total ignorance of the conditions under which the battle had to be fought.  No senior officer from the Operations Branch of the General Headquarters, it was claimed, ever set foot (or eyes) on the Passchendaele battlefield during the four months that the battle was in progress. 2

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Battle of Passchendaele Map
(C) NZ History

Daily reports on the condition of the battlefield were first ignored, then ordered discontinued.  Only after the battle did the Army chief of staff learn that he had been directing men to advance through a sea of mud. 3

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Scene from the Passchendaele battlefield
(C) Library and Archives of Canada

The "great plan" was implemented despite the effect of the steady, drenching rain on the battlefield--despite the fact that the guns clogged, that soldiers carrying heavy ammunition slipped off their paths into muddy shell holes and drowned, that the guns could not be moved forward and the wounded could not be brought backward. 4

In the book, "A Short History of World War I," it says: "Still the attack went on; they slept between sheets at corps headquarters and lamented that the infantry did not show more offensive spirit." 

"A staff officer ... came up to see the battlefield after it was all quiet again.  He gazed out over the sea of mud, then said half to himself, 'My God, did we send men to advance in that?' after which he broke down weeping and his escort led him away."5   
Canadians to the Front 

A Canadian Corps of 100,000 strong was ordered to the Passchendaele front, east of Ypres, in mid-October 1917, to relieve New Zealand and Australian troops.


Image result for images canadian flag
The Flag of Canada

Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps, objected to the battle, fearing a great number of soldiers would lose their lives due to the physical conditions of the terrain.  
Under orders, Currie began getting his troops ready to fight knowing deliberate preparations, especially for artillery and engineers, was the key to advancing over the damaged landscape.  

Nearly 16,000 Canadian soldiers fell in battle between mid-October and mid-November that year while capturing the targeted ridge. 6

Passchendaele Battle Summary 

105:   Number of days battle lasted

275,000:  Casualties under British command (average 2,100 per day)

220,000:  Casualties under German command

90,000:  Number of bodies never identified (42,000 not recovered)

4.25 million:  Estimated number of shells fired 

Casualties and Munitions 7

Image result for images flanders fields
Tyne Cot Cemetery--Memorial to the Missing
Largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world.
West Flanders, Belgium

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

--Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae


Sources:  
1. Henry Mintzberg 
2. M. D. Feld
3. Ibid
4. J. L. Stokesbury
5. Ibid
6. Canadian Museum of War 
7. The Telegraph


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(C) Bredholt & Co.



01 January 2018

Saying "Goodbye" to Clichés

"And now we welcome the new year.  Full of things that have never been."

--Rainer Maria Rilke


What would you like to do in 2018?  Find a new job?  Exercise more?  Travel to far away places?   

How about saying goodbye to "clichés" ("Thrown under the bus") and their poor relative, "buzzwords?" ("pivot") 

It wouldn't be easy since we're creatures of habit.  But with practice it might be possible ("only time will tell").  And those around you would be grateful.   As one source noted, "Moving away from these dreaded terms means people would hear fewer phrases or opinions which are overused, and betray a lack of original thought." ("Buy in")

Management consultants and publishers may contribute to the problem when offering simplistic solutions to complex problems.  ("Boiling the ocean")

What's a cliché?  

According to yourdictionary.com a cliché can be categorized in one of two ways:

An overused expression.  Something that's said a lot and has become so common, it's no longer even noticed in conversation.   The website offers phrases such as "to this day" or "next thing I knew" as examples.   Or,

An idea with a different meaning from its literal meaning.  "Sweaty palms" or "twinkling eyes" have real and imagined meanings.

In our study "outdated" is a word used to describe tiresome clichés like "read between the lines." Even true sayings ("all that glitters is not gold") lose their appeal by over-using.  

Origin of the word  

The word cliché has French ancestry.  It comes from the clicking (clicher, to click) of printing presses.  It was printer's jargon for "stereotype" or a word or phrase that gets repeated often.  How often may be the problem.

We've moved past "with all due respect."  Or, "you know what I mean." Those phrases are not useful to anyone wanting to have an intelligent conversation.   

Where to begin?

Here are two lists:

One is a subjective look at ten present-day clichés which show up with great frequency in business, politics, and repeated in the media.  Sometimes this terminology spills over into everyday conversations. 

The other is a list of buzzwords found in recruiters LinkedIn profiles.       

Ten clichés to leave behind

1.  At the end of the day


2.  It is what it is

3.  Going forward

4.  Low hanging fruit

5.  Thinking outside the box

6.  Best practices

7.  Team player

8.  I don't have the bandwidth

9.  Getting everyone on the same page

10. Game changer

Buzzwords to avoid on a LinkedIn resume'  

1.  Specialized

2.  Leadership

3.  Experienced

4.  Focused

5.  Strategic

6.  Passionate

7.  Excellent

8.  Expert

9.  Generalist

10.  Successful


Being different


There may be times when it's appropriate to insert a cliché into a conversation such as, "I lost track of time."  However it's not a good habit as clichés and buzzwords tend to diminish your credibility.  

As an original your expressions of thought should be, too.  Rather than appearing interchangeable with colleagues by using the latest jargon, consider the benefits of being clear and concise when choosing your words.    

We admire those traits in others, and they'll be admired in you as well.  


www.strategist.com

(C) Bredholt & Co.












01 December 2017

The Stewardship of Time

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life."

--Socrates


The first precision timepieces, invented by Dutchman Christaan Huygens in 1657, made visible the ancient Egyptian idea of a 24-hour day.  Those with access to pendulum clocks and spiral-hairspring watches could begin keeping track of how they spent their time.   

Nearly four centuries later the remarkable Apple Series 3 watch allows its users to know what time it is, stay connected, make calls, and receive texts--without being near an iPhone.  

Amazing.   

Think on these things

If the present moment is all we have for sure, what then is the essence of time? How are you spending--how should you be spending--this irreplaceable gift?  

Consider the following ...

  • What are you doing right now that you could drop and it wouldn't make any difference?
  • Are you taking time to be alone with your thoughts?  Those are not lost moments but time well spent--necessary to maintain your equilibrium. 
  • In the coming year, what's the single most important investment of time you can make in yourself?  Your family?  Your co-workers and direct reports?  

When it comes to the measurement of time it's not just how you spend it, it's also what you save.  Remember the maxim, "In all things keep something in reserve."

Therefore in managing oneself perhaps the ultimate in personal or professional success is not wearing the latest analog or digital timepiece, but having peace of mind.  



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(C) Bredholt & Co.