“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. . . his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.”
Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.2.1356a.4‑12
If you speak, you should begin here:
does your audience find you trustworthy?
If the answer is yes, they will more likely listen. If the answer is no, than all is lost before you even begin. This concern falls under the ancient category of “ethos.”
I have written before about the importance of ethos. Traditionally, ethos stands for the “ethical appeal,” and speaks of the character of the speaker. In an era of great mistrust, such as ours, ethos may be the most critical trait of all.
Ethos and character were frequently spoken of back in the days of ancient rhetoric. Quintilian (ca. 35 – ca. 100) actually defined rhetoric as “the good man speaking well.” This is from the Wikipedia article on Quintilian:
Quintilian quite literally believed that an evil man could not be an orator, “for the orator’s aim is to carry conviction, and we trust those only whom we know to be worthy of our trust.”
(Yes – I know – all of this is masculine centered language. In ancient times, they had not yet made much progess in the arena of gender equality).
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) focused on “habits” related to ethos:
• intelligence =”mental habits”
• virtue = “moral habits”
• good will = “emotional habits”
In one of the textbooks I use in my teaching, Public Speaking (8th Edition) by Michael Osborn, Suzanne Osborn, and Randall Osborn, they describe four components of ethos. These are terrific. Here they are, from the book, with my own take sprinkled in:
• integrity – be trustworthy (ethical; honest; dependable)
• competence – develop genuine expertise; know your subject well (informed; intelligent; well-prepared)
• dynamism – raise the energy in the room whenever you speak (confident; decisive; enthusiastic)
• goodwill – have the best interests of your audience at heart. Always mean them well, never mean them harm.
Or… to put it all in simple terms:
• you can trust me
• because I have prepared well
• and, I believe this deeply enough to get excited about it – and I work hard to stay current
• and I share this with you to help you succeed in your own pursuits.
Enter every speaking assignment with these components of ethos at the front of your mind, and you will become known as trustworthy– a person of good character, speaking well.
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Over the past decade, Apple has launched five legitimately game-changing innovations:
• The iPod. The elegant MP3 player that started Apple’s decade of disruption.
• iTunes. Beautiful software with a powerful business model that showed that people would in fact pay for music if the price was right and the interface was simple enough.
• The iPhone. Dubbed the “Jesus Phone” by supporters, a smartphone that three years later still hasn’t been matched by rivals.
• The AppExchange. Sure, no one needs 98 percent of the apps that Apple offers, but wow, what a selection.
• The Apple Store. The quietest part of Apple’s revolution, today close to $2 billion worth of goods move through Apple revolutionary stores.
Many expect the iPad to be Apple’s sixth big success. It’s still too early to tell (and, as noted before, I’m waiting for the twist), but watching my four- and two-year old children play around with our iPad leads me to believe the device has only scratched the surface of its disruptive potential.
That’s not to say the next decade will be as great for Apple as the past decade. It now has to think hard about how to manage conflicts that will emerge at the intersections of its businesses. The company will inevitably find it hard to maintain its growth rate as revenues approach $100 billion.
Looking back, my mistake in dismissing Matt was pretty simple. I didn’t count on the impact of items three through five on the list above. It’s a natural enough mistake. The number of companies that have organically created three distinct multi-billion dollar new businesses in a decade is pretty short.
And if Apple had indeed stopped at the iPod, my advice to Matt would have appeared smarter. After all, iPod sales have slowed over the past few years as that market has approached saturation. But Apple’s brilliance has been to relentlessly push the pace of innovation.
Reflecting on Apple’s decade of disruption highlights three critical lessons:
1. Don’t just focus on building beautiful products. Build beautiful business models, new ways to create, deliver, and capture value. The iPod and iPhone would not have had nearly as much impact if they hadn’t been matched with iTunes and the AppExchange respectively.
2. Think in terms of platforms and pipelines. Competitors that chase Apple’s latest release find themselves behind when six months later Apple introduces its latest and greatest offering.
3. Take a portfolio approach. While Apple has been on a phenomenal run, not everything it has introduced has been a home run. For example, Apple TV hasn’t had the “revolutionary” impact that Jobs predicted upon its launch in 2007.
Many companies I’ve spoken to dismiss the learning from Apple’s success. “Apple has Steve Jobs,” they’ll note. “We don’t.”
Of course, Jobs has been a central player in Apple’s success. It’s indeed unlikely that Apple could have been as successful without such a visionary, charismatic leader. But my own view is that the “black box” of innovation has cracked open, making innovation success more widely available.
Innovators around the world — whether they are intraprenreurs working for large companies or entrepreneurs set out to create the next great business — can meaningfully increase their odds of success by drawing on the increasingly deep pool of academic research and case examples. Whether they wear mock black turtlenecks is up to them.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Anthony is the Managing Director of Innosight Ventures. He has written three books on innovation, the latest being The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times.
I spend as much time as possible with my ten grandchildren, seven of whom live in the Dallas area; the other three visit several times a year. The younger ones seem to watch a great deal of television, either scheduled programs or DVDs. When I was a child, growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched a great deal of radio prior to the arrival of television.
Yes, that’s right, I “watched” radio. My favorite programs were Amos & Andy, The Lone Ranger, Sky King, Let’s Pretend, Grand Central Station, and The Green Hornet. Also, seasonal programs such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and The Cinnamon Bear when they were broadcast.
Watching radio requires far more imagination than does watching television. For example, one of the most popular radio programs was Fibber McGee & Molly. Near the end of each episode, McGee would open his closet after, of course, ignoring Molly’s pleading with him not to. The deafening sound effects suggested that he had once again been buried under all the stuff that had been jammed into the closet. When it became a television show, that weekly event lost all of its humor because what those in the radio audience imagined was far more effective than anything that could be shown.
I remain convinced that I “saw” much more watching radio than my grandchildren now “see” watching television.
“By ‘permanent white water,’ I mean events with five characteristics. First, they arrive as surprises. Second, they frequently have novel comonents and character. Third, they don’t fit neatly into any capability the organization already possesses. Fourth, although they are frequently so weird and bizarre to be amusing, they cannot be brushed aside but must be dealt with. And fifth, while conceivably any one of these events can be anticipated, what cannot be planned for is the continual occurrence of further surprising, novel, ill-structured, and obtrusive events. This fifth characteristic makes permanent white water a descriptor of the overall system over which a managerial leader is in charge or facilitates. As that famous philosopher human condition, Roseanne Roseannadanna, used to say on Saturday Night Live, ‘It just goes to show ya, it’s always something.’”
When asked why it is especially important to develop one’s spirituality in the context of permanent white water, Vaill responds, “Because, fundamentally, permanent white water is an assault on the values one holds dear. We need a spirituality that is robust enough to handle such assaults and not evaporate on us at the first sign of trouble. Victor Frankl’s study of survival in the Nazi death camps showed that survivors tended to have some kind of spirituality that helped them through the horror.”
Note: The study to which Vaill refers was published as Man’s Search for Meaning, Part One: Experiences in a Concentration Camp. Here is a brief excerpt within which Frankl shares one of his conclusions. “If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life– an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.”
“So these white-water events are novel, they’re surprising, they don’t fit into neat categories, they force themselves on your attention, and they will always arrive in some form or another. They take up enormous amounts of your time. Leaders may spend the whole day fighting fires and then feel like they haven’t accomplished a darn thing.”
I presume to add two points:
1. Covey was right: Focus on what’s important, not on what’s urgent.
2. Most “fires” are caused by human beings and thus are preventable.
Peter B. Vaill is emeritus professor of management and a senior scholar in the Ph.D. program in leadership and management at Antioch College. He earned M.B.A. and D.B.A. degrees from Harvard University and his published books include Managing as a Performing Art, Learning as a Way of Being, and Spirited Leading and Learning.