Everybody Sees the World the Same Way I Do – It’s a Trap!

Fifth in a series about communication and change management

Frustrated They're Not Learning? It May Not Be Them

Frustrated They’re Not Learning? It May Not Be Them

I love words. As a child when I discovered books, that became  my world. It’s where I escaped to. I write daily. I journal. I have plans to write a book. I love the smell of books. I have a library that I measure in hundreds of linear feet. Some books go back to the late 18th century.

It’s a lovely place. Coffee on, music in my ears, typewriter keyboard under my hands. Or a new book on my e-reader. When I learn or process I usually do it through words. Words are beautiful. Words are powerful. Words are magical.

Yet I’m closing myself off from most of the world. Not everybody has a sensual association with the written word like I do. Saying that out loud it seems that might be a good thing. My point is, not everybody processes the world through words. There are five senses, not just eyes scanning shapes laid out linearly.

Words are a visual media, yes, but there are also photographs, drawings, and pictures. Movies, models, and sculptures. There are many visual media, and many different ways to understand the world. The best writing (and speaking), in fact,  invokes the visual in concrete and tangible ways.

Fix #5 Appeal to All Five Senses

Learn to tell compelling stories. Tell them in different ways. Consider all the senses. Persuasive, moving arguments invoke all five senses and more. They invoke memory and emotion. We act because of how they make us feel.

I saw one of the worst examples of killing all enthusiasm for a great idea at an after-dinner presentation last week, in which a simple story from the audience rescued the evening.

The presentation was on workforce management. The slides that accompanied the presentation looked like a random collection of numbers and letters thrown at the page. The presenter read from the slides. It was horrible.

I felt sorry for the poor guy. He was trying to jazz things up by having a little drawing of a flow-chart or something in the bottom corner once in a while. Ironic really. Yet it was a simple metaphor from the audience that brought his concept  to life:

There are two kinds of shoppers at the hardware store on a Saturday morning. The first kind has a list, knows what she needs to complete the entire project, and gets in and out just the once. She spend the rest of the day executing the project, finishes early, and has a beer on the patio at the end of the day.

The second kind makes a trip to the hardware store every time they figure out they’re missing another piece or tool. This was me last summer when my outside faucet sprung a leak inside the house – six trips to the hardware store before I had the drywall back on the ceiling!

There. One simple visual metaphor and the jargon-filled, esoteric project management concept is distilled and made clear. Now the details (and project managers love details) have a skeleton to hang from. Oversimplified? Perhaps. Understandable? Yes.

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