“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker
I cite the Drucker observation because it correctly suggests that misdirected efficiency is worse than no effort at all. Why? The problem to be solved is certain to become even worse, if neglected. As I began to read Art Markman’s book, I was reminded of a passage from Judgment, a book co-authored by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis. In the first chapter, they assert that what really matters “is not how many calls a leader gets right, or even what percentage of calls a leader gets right. Rather it is important how many of the important ones he or she gets right.” They go on to suggest that effective leaders “not only make better calls, but they are able to discern the really important ones and get a higher percentage of them right. They are better at a whole process that runs from seeing the need for a call, to framing issues, to figuring out what is critical, to mobilizing and energizing the troops.”
Whatever its size and nature may be, every organization needs what Markman characterizes as “Smart Thinking” at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. That is, develop a culture within which everyone involved is prepared to solve new (i.e. unfamiliar) problems using the knowledge they possess including knowledge of where and how to obtain the additional information they may need. Decades ago, when responding to complaints about tuition increase at Harvard, Derek Bok observed, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” I agree, presuming to add that not knowing what you think you know but, in fact, don’t is perhaps the most damaging form of ignorance. According to Markman, “Smart Thinking is like chess. Even though it may seem like Smart Thinking must be some kind of talent, it is really a skill” and almost anyone can master it.
o James Dyson: How did he come up with the idea for his vacuum? (Pages 8-13)
o The Formula for Smart Habits (33-41)
o Changing [Bad] Habits (44-54)
o Seeing Less Thank You Expect to See (60-71)
o Help Others Use the Role of 3 (81-98)
Note: This refers to “three simple steps”: Prepare Pay Attention, and Review
o Fixing the Illusion of Explanatory Depth through Specific Thinking (110-118)
o Applying Your Knowledge (123-133)
o How Memory Works (159-162)
o A Language for Smart Thinking (174-177)
o Recommendations for Good Practice (186-192)
o Find New Solutions (195-198)
Note: In my opinion, this is one of the most insightful passages in the book. Re-read Drucker quote.
o Your Social Network and a Culture of Smart (207-210)
o Ten suggestions to create a “Culture of Smart” (210-229)
As Markman stresses at several points throughout his lively as well as informative narrative, Smart Thinking and intelligence are not the same. Whereas intelligence is defined as an inborn ability that determines how well you are going to be able to think, “Smart Thinking is really about the content of what you know and how you use it.” As quoted earlier, “Smart Thinking is like chess. Even though it may seem like Smart Thinking must be some kind of talent, it is really a skill” and almost anyone can master it.
Markman wrote this book so he could share whatever information, insights, and counsel anyone may need to become and then continue to be a Smart Thinker, feeding the brain with new knowledge of a very high quality. As I read it, I was again reminded of an observation by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” This is what Markman has in mind in Chapter Two when explaining how and why creating Smart habits will change both attitude and behavior. He notes two aspects of habits that promote Smart Thinking: The behaviors you perform habitually do not take up your precious cognitive resources” and “You do not have to create habits intentionally. They develop whenever there is a consistent mapping between your mental and physical environment and the behavior you want to carry out.”
Becoming a Smart Thinker is essential to personal growth and professional development, to be sure, but it is also essential to developing a Culture of Smart. Before concluding his book, Art Markman provides and discusses ten specific initiatives that will help to establish and then enrich such a culture. All great leaders are Smart Thinkers who seem to have a “green thumb” for “growing” those with whom they are associated. That is the challenge and (yes) the privilege that they eagerly embrace.
o “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams
o “The will to power, as the modern age from Hobbes to Nietzsche understood it, far from being a characteristic of the strong, is, like envy and greed, among the vices of the weak, and possibly even their most dangerous one. Power corrupts indeed when the weak band together in order to ruin the strong, but not before.” – Hannah Arendt
o “Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power – that is not easy.” – Aristotle
o “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” – P.T. Barnum
o “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
o “In my experience, people who are truly compassionate rarely use the word ‘compassion.’ Those who do talk compassion generally intend to be compassionate with your money, not their own. It’s wrong for someone to confiscate your money, give it to someone else, and call that ‘compassion’.” – Harry Browne
o “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” – Indira Gandhi
o “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” – Alexander Hamilton
o “Pessimist by policy, optimist by temperament– it is possible to be both. How? By never taking an unnecessary chance and by minimizing the risks you can’t avoid. This permits you to play out the game untroubled by the certainty of the outcome.” – Robert A. Heinlein
o “When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail” – Abraham Maslow
o “For every human problem there is a solution that is simple, neat…and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken
o “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” – Thomas Paine
o “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” – Plato
o “If you ignore the rules, people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so they don’t apply to you.” – Terry Pratchett
o “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
o “Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.” – Bertrand Russell
o “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” – Nikola Tesla
o “Wait by the river long enough and the body of your enemy will float by you.” – Sun Tsu
o “Man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to.” – Mark Twain
o “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” – Kurt Vonnegut
I’ve never watched Breaking Bad. Barely heard of it (though, I have heard the lead actor interviewed twice in recent days). But here is an article about how it nearly did not ever get off the ground, by the creator, Vince Gilligan: I Almost Broke Bad: The creator of the award-winning Breaking Bad explains how his show almost didn’t happen.
Here’s how Vince Gilligan described what he had to do in front of the executives, the small and select audience (in fact, an audience of two: Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, the co-heads of Sony Television) who would decide yes or no on his idea. I’ve bolded the key lines, for those of us in the communication business, those of us who have to communicate our ideas – and, don’t we all?!
I spent several more weeks expanding my 15-minute thumbnail into a full-fledged, 30-minute rundown of the first episode. This is called a “pilot pitch,” and it’s something you do verbally, acting it out for various stone-faced executives. There’s an art to it: Maintain eye contact, exude boundless enthusiasm, and never, ever refer to your notes. Have the entire thing memorized backward and forward so that you can toss it off with the aplomb of David Niven on The Dick Cavett Show. For me, that’s one tall order. But I gave it the old college try.
So, here’s your presentation tutorial for the day:
#1 — Maintain eye contact. Look your audience members in the eye – eyeball to eyeball. In order to persuade anyone of anything, you have to connect. A failure to maintain eye contact is a sure fire way to fail to connect.
#2 – Exude boundless enthusiasm. This is not what you would call new advice. Aristotle referred to pathos, what speech teachers commonly call “the emotional appeal,” as one of the three primary means of persuasion. (The other two, from Aristotle, are logos – the logical appeal, and ethos – the ethical appeal, referring to the character, and especially the credibility of the speaker). Others added mythos – the narrative appeal to the ancient formula). It boils down to this: if you’re not enthusiastic – very! enthusiastic — about what you are proposing, how can you expect your audience to be enthusiastic?
#3 — Have the entire thing memorized backward and forward… In other words, know your material so well, so thoroughly, that it’s beyond second nature. It is practically “first nature.” This message is actually you! – you in a message, presenting a presentation coming from the depths of what is deep inside of you. This is you speaking — the real you , the “authentic” you. If you are just “presenting a presentation” rather than speaking from the depths of the inside of you, it will come across as a “job,” a job to present “this presentation.” And such a “job, presenting a presentation,” comes across as a distant second to the person who is able to speak from the depths of his or her very being.
Oh, and by the way, did you notice?: Vince Gilligan did not mention PowerPoint at all. It was him: his body, his words, in front of a very interested audience. Nothing else. If you insist on Powerpoint, make sure that it is just an aid. You – yes, you yourself – are the presentation!
Quite a challenge — and quite a tutorial, don’t you think?
Opinions vary about which forms are the most common and many of those opinions offer excellent examples of dumb thinking. The opinions I now share are those of several thinkers whom I personally admire. They include Plato, Aristotle, St. Paul, Marcus Aurelius, Isaac Newton, John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, William James, Albert Einstein, and Richard Feynman. If you have any complaints, take it up with them.
1. Zero-Sum: Movies or radio, radio or television, bound volumes or electronic reading devices, profitability or community service…you get the idea. With rare exception (e.g. a moral crisis), it is not a matter of either/or; rather, both…but with (perhaps) different proportionality.
2. “They say….”: This involves relying on a source (or sources) that cannot be verified. It is especially common among those who have little (if any) faith in their own opinions and/or launch the opinion of an unidentified source as a trial balloon and/or never express an opinion about anything until after they have obtained a near-unanimous consensus among several sources, such as a shared assumption that “The earth is definitely flat.”
3. “If you build it, they will come.” That may have been true of a cornfield in Iowa but most of the time, thinking and doing anything within an information vacuum will result in serious errors of judgment. There are countless examples but here are two in retailing: websites that are created at great cost and “go live” online and retail stores located in high-traffic malls (leased, staffed, and stocked at great cost) that fail to attract more than a few dozen visitors each day, if that. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, “Build what people really want even if they don’t know it yet, build it better than anyone else does, and people will buy it.”
4. Doing something the same way again and again, then expecting different results: This is Einstein’s definition of insanity. James O’Toole characterizes it as evidence of “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Charles Duhigg has much of value to say about repetitive thinking and behavior in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. However, I think more than habit is involved. Denial, for example, and delusion. Perhaps some narcissism. This form of dumb thinking — probably more than any other — helps to explain why most human wounds are self-inflicted.
What to do? One good starting point would be to check out Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management in which Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton propose six specific strategies for producing, evaluating, selling, and applying business knowledge:
o Stop treating old ideas as if they were brand new.
o Be suspicious of ”breakthrough” ideas and studies.
o Celebrate and develop collective brilliance.
o Emphasize drawbacks as well as virtues.
o Use success (and failure) stories to illustrate sound practices, but not in place of valid research method.
o Adopt a neutral stance toward ideologies and theories.
Here is a brief excerpt from a brilliant article by posted by Des Dearlove and Stuart Crainer. It is featured at the Thinkers50 website. To read the complete article and check out the wealth of resources, please click here.
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Who is the most influential living management thinker?
That is the question that the Thinkers50, the biennial global ranking of management thinkers, seeks to answer. But does the ranking or the ideas it celebrates really matter?
It’s a fair question. In an age of awards overkill, it is tempting to see the ranking as just another example of hubris in the business world. All the more galling when many businesses are struggling.
But, celebrating the very best new thinking in management matters for three reasons.
First, ideas are important. They have the power to change the world. Think of Copernicus, Socrates, Aristotle, Newton, Galileo, or Einstein. Think of Charles Darwin, the ultimate disruptive innovator. Ideas define our humanity. They shape the way we think and see our place in the universe.
Equally, in the business world, too, ideas matter — from Steve Jobs to Tim Berners-Lee; and Google to Facebook — new thinkers and new ideas challenge and redefine how we work and live. An idea can change an entire industry and ideas, from kaizen to the balanced scorecard, continually transform the way we work and lead our businesses.
Second, management matters. It has become fashionable in some places to mock management. Ask someone in the UK what is wrong with the National Health Service, for example, and you are likely to be told that there are too many managers and management consultants and not enough doctors and nurses. Managers are the fall guys, the scapegoats for organizational excesses, failures and inefficiencies.
Yet, the reality is that management gets things done. The moment you move beyond one or two people working together then some form of management is required. There is nothing new in this. From Alexander the Great to the modern day, the elements of management – from organizational behavior to supply chain management — have made the difference between success and failure.
Just because management has always been with us, it is easy, too, to dismiss the progress that has been made in the last century. Management is often seen as a poor man’s science. (Not so long ago economics suffered a similar fate.) Critics lampoon the latest management buzzwords, labeling them as pretentious and shallow. In truth, though, management has made big strides.
A hundred years ago, we were in the thrall of scientific management. Had there been a Thinkers50 in the early twentieth century, it would have been dominated by one name — Frederick Winslow Taylor. We have moved on since then. One of the achievements of management in the last 20 years is the recognition that management is a fundamentally human activity. It is as much an art as a science.
It is easy to underestimate the influence of management ideas in that process. Notions such as empowerment, championed in the 1980s, and emotional intelligence in the 1990s seem self-evident now. But we have come a long way from Scientific Management and using a stopwatch to manage performance. Ideas like Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory laid the foundations for that.
Or consider the influence of Clayton Christensen, who tops the Thinkers50 ranking. Christensen’s influence on the business world has been profound. In The Innovator’s Dilemma, he looked at why companies struggle to deal with radical innovation in their markets. The book introduced the idea of disruptive technologies and disruptive innovation to a generation of managers.
Some ideas make us reappraise what we thought we already knew. Until very recently, for example, most managers were (and many still are) convinced that fear and greed were the two primary levers for motivating people. But Dan Pink’s recent book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us tackles the perennial subject of motivation, and argues that we need to abandon the ineffectual carrot and stick approach, and the importance of doing something we love for a career.
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Des Dearlove and Stuart Crainer ( http://www.crainerdearlove.com/) are the founders and directors of the Thinkers50. They are adjunct professors at IE Business School. Stuart is editor of Business Strategy Review. Des is an associate fellow of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.
The fact that von Oech draws heavily upon the “ancient wisdom of Heraclitus” in this book correctly suggests what a creative mind such as von Oech’s can accomplish when seeing direct and useful correlations between an ancient Greek philosopher (other than Plato and Aristotle) and intellectual challenges in the 21st century. Von Oech describes Heraclitus as “the world’s first creative teacher.” He recalls being “infected” (happily) with the Heraclitean “bug” while studying in Germany 30 years ago. Now von Oech has written a book in which he brilliantly and entertainingly examines concepts such as symbol, paradox, and ambiguity in relation to creative thought. He offers 30 “Creative Insights” of Heraclitus which include, for example, these five:
#2. “Expect the unexpected or you won’t find it.”
#4 “You can’t step into the same river twice.”
#12 “Many fail to grasp what’s right in the palm of their hand.”
#26 “Donkeys prefer garbage to gold.”
#29 “Your character is your destiny.”
Individually and even when clustered with the other 25, these “Creative Insights” may incorrectly seem unworthy of careful consideration. In fact, von Oech provides a brief but insightful analysis of each which effectively demonstrates the wisdom of #12. Truly creative thinkers are always alert to what I call “the invisibility of the obvious.” They are not threatened by or even uncomfortable with symbol, paradox, and ambiguity. On the contrary, their minds are stimulated by them.
Throughout his book, von Oech inserts a number of brief puzzles for the reader to solve. (The correct answers are included and explained within the “Final Thoughts” section.) These puzzles are fun to grapple with, of course, and presumably most readers will solve them of them. My point is, the answers to the unsolved puzzles are no less obvious than the answers to the others, no matter which specific puzzles the reader is unable to solve.
Frankly, when I began to read this book, I really did not know what to expect. What of value could I possibly learn from a relatively obscure Greek philosopher? However, von Oech had already convinced me of the value of an occasional “whack on the side of the head” and “kick in the seat of the pants” so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. (See #12.) As always, von Oech is immensely entertaining. He has superb writing skills. And of course, he is an immensely creative thinker in his own right. I strongly recommend this little (in length) book to literally anyone who wants to put white caps on her or his gray matter. Those who share my high regard for this book are strongly urged to read all of von Oech’s previous books as well as those written by Guy Claxton, Edward de Bono, Lynne Levesque, and Michael Michalko.
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Roger von Oech is the founder and president of Creative Think, a California-based consulting firm that specializes in stimulating creativity and innovation. He has given seminars and presentations to corporations worldwide, including Coca-Cola, GE, Disney, Intel, MTV, Microsoft, NASA, Apple, Citigroup, and the United States Olympic Committee. He is the author of two previous creative-thinking books, A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, as well as the popular Creative Whack Pack card deck. He lives with his wife and children in Atherton, California.
“The Great Conversation Across the Centuries”
More than 50 years ago, Walter Paepcke founded the Aspen Institute and entrusted to Mortimer Adler the responsibility for devising a program of inquiry that became known as the Executive Seminar. Initially and for several decades to follow, groups of executives would gather together for two weeks under Adler’s leadership to discuss the Great Ideas…what Adler once described as “the great conversation across the centuries.” Along the way, O’Toole became involved and today conducts Leading Change seminars. (You are urged to read his book which bears that title.) In the Foreword to this book, Lodwrick M. Cook explains O’Toole’s use of the central metaphor: “The beauty of the compass is that it provides a framework for the executive to create order out of the growing chaos of cultural diversity and conflict of values. Like a real compass, [O'Toole's `value compass'] helps us to find where we are, where others are, where we want to go, and how to get there. Like the Aspen experience itself, O’Toole’s compass is aimed at developing executive judgment by expanding our understanding of the interrelationships of fundamental values.” Whose values? They range from those of ancient Greece (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Sophocles) through those of the Enlightenment (Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison) and then those more contemporary within intellectual history (Emerson, Thoreau, Marx, Mill, Freud, Hayek, Schumpeter, Friedman, Postman, and Berlin). One way or another, directly or indirectly, each of the Great Ideas can help each of us in our own quest for “the good society.” Hence the importance of the compass. I wish it were possible to recreate it graphically in combination with this brief commentary. It has four points (Liberty, Efficiency, Equality, and Community) and the tensions between and among them create what James MacGregor Burns has described as “the deadlock of democracy.”
I can personally attest, the Executive Seminar is an exceptionally rigorous intellectual experience. Groups of approximately 20 persons spend a week together, with group discussions led by two carefully selected co-moderators. As O’Toole explains in the Introduction, his intention when writing this book was to assist executives in five roles they play. “One, as managers engaged in making `purely business’ decisions: by recognizing and properly addressing the broad social implications of such decisions, they can bring out more effective organizational performance. Two, as managers whose internal policies turn out to affect outside constituencies. Three, as managers who are participants and partners in government….Four, as citizens who vote and volunteer in political organizations. Finally, five, as individuals who choose to examine their own lives and their own personal legacies to society.” It would be a serious mistake to view Great Ideas as being impractical or somehow irrelevant to everyday human experience. On the contrary, as O’Toole brilliantly explains, they can (indeed should) invest that experience with meaning, direction, and ultimate value.
To whom specifically do I recommend this book? First, to organizational executives who believe in vales-driven leadership and wish to participate in (and be nourished by) what Adler characterizes as “the great conversation across the centuries” with those who generated or refined Great Ideas throughout the past 2,500 years. Second, to those recently embarked on a business career who need a “values compass” as they encounter what O’Toole has described (in Leading Change) as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Finally, to those who wish to gain at least a sense of what the nature of discourse would be, were they to participate in one of the Executive Seminars sponsored by the Aspen Institute.
Although I remain convinced that Atul Gwande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right is the single best source for information and counsel on how to formulate and then use a list most effectively, there are other worthy sources. For example, here is an article written by Martin Douglass for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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Everybody loves a good list, right?
In our time-starved world, numbered lists help readers (and writers) get to the main point while still allowing a little room for flavor. But to paraphrase Aristotle, too much of a good thing is not necessarily better.
In my last post, I compiled the “worst” of the “worst lists.”
Here’s my compendium of five of the best “5 Best” lists of recent years – and what they tell us about how to do this thing right:
1. “5 Best Career Tips for Young People” (US News)
Too many “Top 5 or “10 Most …” lists consist of things you or I could have thought of ourselves, given two minutes and an iPad. Not so these five tips, which were culled from the book, Generation Earn, by Kimberly Palmer. The advice is refreshingly counterintuitive (”Raise your rates”) and pragmatic (”Free up your time and energy by outsourcing chores”).
Lesson: Say something new
2. “The 5 Best Toys of All Time” (Wired)
This list of “best toys” include such time-tested classics as “Stick,” “Cardboard Tube” and “Dirt.” Yes, dirt. Not what you expected, right? Especially in the tech-geek environment of Wired. That’s what so fresh about it: it’s actually fresh. While seemingly tongue-in-cheek, the list actually says something profound about how technology can distort kids’ lives.
Lesson: Be counter-intuitive
3. “Top 5 Best Complaint Letters” (The Telegraph)
Disgruntled customers are always a good source of dark online humor. (As United Airlines, among many others, can tell you.) This compendium includes a Chrysler Neon owner who wrote: “I don’t want the car to explode while I’m in it. Frankly, I do want it to explode when no one is ….”
Lesson: When you can’t be funny yourself, quote funny people
4. “The 5 Best Unintended Uses for the Apple iPad” (PC Magazine)
At the height of iPad mania last April, PC Magazine released a collection of five user-generated videos showing people employing their iPad as a cat toy and a golf tee, among others. In a subtle way, it helped put the hype in perspective.
Lesson: Where possible, include video
5. “MyFiveBest.com” (MyFiveBest.com)
This website describes itself as “User Submitted Trivia and Opinion.” Users post their own lists of “five” things, which range from the serious (”Five Countries That Censor Your Internet”) to the strange (”Five Animals That Have Been Used as Weapons”).
Lesson: When you can’t create … curate Do you have any favorite “best lists” to recommend?
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Martin Douglass is the pseudonym of an Emmy-nominated former TV and magazine writer who threw it all away to get an MBA. He currently toils anonymously in middle-management at a large Midwestern corporation.
This is a sequel to Gail T. Fairhurst’s earlier book, The Art of Framing (1996), and in both she is brilliant when explaining how to position ideas in a context, within a frame-of-reference. “Creating the Language of Leadership” is this later book’s subtitle but by no means has she written this book solely for those who are C-level executives or members of a governing board. All organizations need leadership at all levels and in all areas. That is, they need people who recognize what must be done and understand how to get it done in collaboration with others who respect them and, more to the point, trust them.
The most successful leaders are those who attract and sustain the engagement of others with effective management of meaning. That is, they possess highly-developed verbal and non-verbal skills (e.g. body language, tone of voice). That was certainly true of Winston Churchill prior to and then throughout World War Two and, more recently, Martin Luther King, Jr. I was especially interested in what Fairhurst has to say about other leaders of lesser stature who nonetheless demonstrated great framing skills when sharing their thoughts and feelings on traumatic occasions. That is certainly true of President George Bush and Major Rudolph Giuliani after the attack of the World Trade Center. In their public statements, both shared harsh realities with effective communication as did Churchill and King before them.
More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle suggested that there are four levels of discourse: exposition (to explain), description (to make vivid), narration (to tell a story or explain a sequence), and argumentation (to convince with logic and/or evidence) . Each is most effective when whatever is shared is properly framed. Invoking a simile, it is presented in ways that resemble setting a table for a gourmet meal. Yes, framing creates a context within a frame-of-reference; it also ensures the desired impact as did Presi dent Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” did during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
With rigor and eloquence, Fairhurst discusses framing as (a) a skill, (b) a science, (c) an art form, (d) an emotional connection, (e) an ethical connection, (f) a context for leadership, and (g) a set of specific applications. It is noteworthy that a set of practice exercises accompanies the narrative in each chapter so the Fairhurst can sustain an interactive relationship with her reader. She also concluded each chapter with a summary of key pints that will facilitate, indeed expedite periodic review of those key points later. Readers will also welcome the “Glossary of Framing Terms” (Pages 209-215) and “Notes” to the Preface and all eight chapters (Pages 217-237). There is an additional “bonus”: the provision of Free Premium Content (i.e. 14 Framing Tools) that can be accessed online at http://www.josseybass.com/go/gailfairhurst, using the password “professional” when registering. Such content is a significant value-added benefit.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out three others. They are Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition) and two authored by Annette Simmons: The Story Factor (2nd Revised Edition) and Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact.
Starved For The Practical, The Rejection Of All Things “Liberal” Now Spreads To Disdain For The “Liberal Arts” – Not A Good Thing!
Millions are becoming premodern — communicating in electronic grunts that substitute for effective and dignified expression.
Victor David Hanson
People are starved for the practical. They want to know what to put into practice now to build a better, more successful tomorrow. They are impatient; they have little time to reflect, ponder… they want to “do it,” they want to “just do it,” and they want it done by this afternoon.
And they are impatient in every way. Like… why spend all those semesters studying subjects in school that do not have immediate, practical application?
As a result, the “liberal arts” are in trouble. And, in my opinion, this is a bad development, maybe a devastating one.
Andrew Sullivan has treated this as a recent major theme on his blog, with multiple posts, with excerpts from opinion leader and readers responses. With his post The Use of Uselessness, Andrews linked to this article in the National Review Online, In Defense of the Liberal Arts: the therapeutic Left and the utilitarian Right both do disservice to the humanities, by Victor David Hanson. I really do encourage you to read the entire article. Here are a number of excerpts – worth reading for a Sunday reflection:
In such a climate, it is unsurprising that once again we hear talk of cutting the “non-essentials” in our colleges, such as Latin, Renaissance history, Shakespeare, Plato, Rembrandt, and Chopin. Why do we cling to the arts and humanities in a high-tech world in which we have instant recall at our fingertips through a Google search and such studies do not guarantee sure 21st-century careers?
But the liberal arts train students to write, think, and argue inductively, while drawing upon evidence from a shared body of knowledge. Without that foundation, it is harder to make — or demand from others — logical, informed decisions about managing our supercharged society as it speeds on by.
Without links to our heritage, we in ignorance begin to think that our own modern challenges — the war in Afghanistan, gay marriage, cloning, or massive deficits — are unique and not comparable to those solved in the past.
And without citizens broadly informed by the humanities, we descend into a pyramidal society. A tiny technocratic elite on top crafts everything from cell phones and search engines to foreign policy and economic strategy. A growing mass below has neither understanding of the present complexity nor the basic skills to question what they are told.
On the other hand, pragmatists argued that our 20-year-old future CEOs needed to learn spreadsheets rather than why Homer’s Achilles did not receive the honors he deserved, or how civilization was lost in fifth-century Rome and 1930s Germany. But Latin or a course in rhetoric might better teach a would-be captain of industry how to dazzle his audience than a class in Microsoft PowerPoint.
The more instantaneous our technology, the more we are losing the ability to communicate. Twitter and text-messaging result in economy of expression, not in clarity or beauty. Millions are becoming premodern — communicating in electronic grunts that substitute for effective and dignified expression. Indeed, by inventing new abbreviations and linguistic shortcuts, we are losing a shared written language altogether, in a way analogous to the fragmentation of Latin as the Roman Empire imploded into tribal provinces. No wonder the public is drawn to stories like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, in which characters speak beautifully and believe in age-old values.
I teach Speech at the Community College Level. I lead Presentation Skills training sessions for corporate clients. I start both in the same way – with Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric (“finding the available means of persuasion”), and the centrality of logos, ethos, and pathos. This foundational understanding of persuasion is still the best there is – and it always will be. Understanding the foundations really is important. And, after that, we can get to the practical, the “how to…” Skipping the foundations is simply skipping too far ahead.
I think we need to save some time for something deeper than, more timeless, than, the immediately practical. Don’t you?