Archive for the ‘communications’ Tag

Business and drawing again

One more post about business and drawing.  It’s strange even to look at those two words together.  Our society makes easy connections between business and writing or speaking, business and science or math, business and research or analysis.  But referring to business and drawing sounds to us like combining seriousness with play, and how can that be a valid endeavor?

At this time of global shifts in everything, it’s appropriate to change up all our assumptions: to play with our seriousness and to be serious about our play.  Marketing’s concern is the whole person of its clientele, the heart and soul of customers as much as their intelligence.  Using traditional tools and approaches in marketing and problem solving limits the choices unacceptably:  our perceptions must widen far beyond  technical parameters and encompass factors that seem at first glance to be only distantly related to our issue.  Allowing ourselves to perceive this wider and more detailed picture brings us into contact with possibilities heretofore hidden from us. 

Using drawing – or shall we just call it making marks – puts us directly in touch with possibility, and a way of perceiving that makes accessible a new kind of objectivity and analysis.  The practice can be applied by the individual to dissect an issue or meaningfully use down time; it can be used between two people to assist in finding common ground and to clarify communications; and it can be used in groups to boost engagement and simplify teamwork. 

Though radical, this concept is not at all fanciful.  I picture people routinely slipping into mark-making as they converse, having become habituated to accessing this non-linear way of perceiving.  We have been imprisoned by our left-brainedness, and we will discover new worlds of possibility by loosening those bonds through drawing.

Please draw

Are all you business leaders, managers, and salespeople out there aware of Dan Roam’s new book, The Back of the Napkin?  I listened to a panel discussion with this author and several others, though I’ve not yet read the book.  Today, I’m suggesting that anyone involved in commerce who could use a new approach should pick this one up.

The nugget of brilliance at the heart of Roam’s manifesto is that we are visual beings and that we respond with unprecendented engagement to pictures.   If this seems an obvious notion, why is it that our adult world traffics so little in pictorial communications?  We may surround ourselves with visuals, pictures on the wall, cool screensavers, movies.  But we seldom if ever use our human capability to draw. 

It’s one of my main rags in life, that we so rarely cultivate our natural gifts: our abilities to move, and sing, and draw.  So it’s truly heartening when the urgings of so many creativity experts are ratified in the business world through vehicles like Roam’s book.  Future civilizations will look back at this time as one when humanity at last began to realize its full potential.  The progress made possible by the wheel’s invention is minor compared to the evolution we will achieve through full use of our natural capabilities.

Roam’s idea, in a way, is a simplification of the mind map; it’s not a new concept, but it’s presented in a nicely accessible form through the book.  Would you like your business challenges to be a little easier to handle, your relations a little deeper and more fun, your communications more clear, your progress more obvious?  A great place to start is with your own visualizing; just pick up a pen and start making marks.

Playing by the rules

I’m working on a writing job currently that has lots of rules, including a long list of words one is forbidden to use. Why? It’s a rule, that’s all. Rules are rules. We stop there.

Rules seem to be necessary in society. Wherever three or more are gathered, there the rules shall be. It’s the basis of civilization, the only way we know to approach peaceable life together.

Rules are usually established by wise leaders, who set down these maxims for good reason. But the hoi polli who must live by them soon forget their reason for being, and simply accept them as rules and therefore indisputable. The human propensity for fear keeps us in the thrall of rules and dictums from on high. For the most part, we let these forces do our thinking for us.

At some point, though, you can step back from the rules. You can consider what your own judgment is, apart from givens you’ve been force fed. You can make the conscious decision to adopt or reject the rules. In a way, that’s what branding is all about: communicating to others your own well-considered set of rules and regs. It’s certainly at the core of innovation, where not being bound by rules is the first practice.


At the end of our lunch yesterday, my friend apologized for doing all the talking during our time together.  I laughed, because it wasn’t her fault at all:  it was simply that I asked her a stream of questions as we ate.  I discovered this little trick many years ago and employ it regularly.  Why? 

1.  It’s fun.  I already know about me, I don’t know about the other, and asking lots of questions is how I manage to eek a lot of learning out of encounters and conversations. 

2.  It’s inspirational.  Not only do I gain bunches of new info, I also exercise my perceptive abilities and practice deep mining skills.  One learns to make questions increasingly evocative as the dialogue advances.

3.  It’s compassionate.  How often does anyone demonstrate sufficient interest in you to ask you a series of questions about yourself?  I think we very rarely question one another; we hardly ever talk at length about ourselves; the pressures of the business world seem to care nothing for our inner selves and we are dangerously repressed.

Asking questions is another core quality of the creative life, yet it’s something that our schooling and society have de-emphasized, very much to our collective peril.  I hope you’ll seize and run with the very next opportunity to grill someone compassionately.  You’ll benefit from the learning and they won’t know what hit them, but they’ll appreciate the catharsis nonetheless.