How and why to “get it”: the hidden agenda
Initially, I misunderstood this book’s title, incorrectly assuming that Kevin Allen – in the manner of someone who has planned a treasure hunt – would help his reader to locate something of substantial value. In a sense that is true. However, that “something” is essentially worthless unless and until (a) the person who uncovers it understands and appreciates it and (b) knows how to use it to best advantage. Case in point, vandals raiding the ancient library in Alexandria used copies of plays by Greek playwrights such as Aeschylus and Sophocles as fuel for their camp fires to cook food.
I selected the title of this review from a longer passage in the Introduction: “Get it? Get what? The ‘what’ is the hidden agenda, the emotional motivator behind all the statistics, the business jargon, and the other things that surround any key business issue. It is in fact how people make decisions, with their hearts.”
Allen is a veteran advertising executive and an accomplished “pitch man” but he clearly agrees with John Hill, co-founder of Hill & Knowlton, that the best pitch is one that offers “truth well told.” He shares everything he has learned about how to prepare and then present such a pitch for the readers whom he characterizes as “you dreamers, strivers, fighters, doers, and itchy-feet people ‘growth aspirants.” Allen is convinced that, for them, their ability to pitch “is the very spearpoint and lifeblood of achieving these ambitions.”
The reader is provided with an abundance of information, insights, and counsel to help achieve strategic objectives such as these:
o Locating the “hidden agenda”
o Identifying the “conceptual target”
o Connecting with the hidden agenda
o Defining one’s “core”
o Selecting and articulating one’s “credo”
o Defining the characteristics of “real” ambition
o Formulating one’s “win” strategy
o Mastering the power of storytelling
Allen is a results-driven pragmatist, determined to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why so that he can then share with others what he has learned. Whether or not people realize it, they are making pitches every day and usually draw upon most (if not all) of these resources of rhetoric: exposition to explain with information, description to make vivid with compelling details, narration to tell a story or explain a sequence, and finally, argumentation to convince with logic and/or evidence. If you want others to “get it” when you communicate with them, then you need to locate “it” and decide how best to present it. Kevin Allen offers practical advice whose value is incalculable.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the selections in Kevin Allen’s ”Further Reading” section. Also, these: Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: Science and Practice (4th Edition), Carmine Gallo ‘s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, and The Story Factor (2nd Revised Edition) by Annette Simmons and Doug Lipman.
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
The principle is expressed in the form of an acronym and has two versions: “Keep it Short and Simple” or “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” Its origins are uncertain but the basic concept dates back at least to Occam’s razor (i.e. “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily”) and several of my favorite quotations express its basic truth. For example:
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo Da Vinci
“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
“It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Albert Einstein
With regard to the most common business applications of the K.I.S.S. Principle, they include:
• Process simplification: Whatever the methodology (Lean, Six Sigma, or some combination of both), the objective is to eliminate everything that is not essential to achieving the desired results. Barrier identification and removal are especially important.
• Reduction of costs: Again, the objective is to eliminate non-essentials. There could be reductions of overhead (e.g. staff, compensation, facilities, production, inventory, marketing), capital expenditures, market expansion or penetration, and/or R&D. Organizations as well as individuals should live within a budget and, if at all possible, reduce or eliminate debt and then build a cash reserve.
• Internal and external communications: The internal applications include verbal, print, and intranet explanations of mission statement, strategies, policies and procedures, benefits, and major developments. The external applications include advertising, PR (i.e. government, financial, press, and community relations), sales and marketing collateral (e.g. brochures, newsletters, e-mail alerts), tradeshows, and industry involvement. The best guidelines to follow are provided by the quotations cited earlier, demonstrating John Hill’s definition of effective communication as “truth well-told.”
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob