Monday, July 26, 2010

Mental Chains

What makes a strong personality? Many consider the conviction and ability of a person to convince the line of thought they attest to. Or ability to command a battalion to victory against seen enemies. As a corollary, a weak personality is one who accepts the diktats impressed upon them by a strong personality. Or leaving their conniving emotions to a subjugate purpose.

At face value, it is correct. So, you might think so. This line of thought is part of mental chains we possess based on our
  1.  Upbringing,
  2. Hammered by Cultures,
  3. Exposure to Stereotypes,
  4. Pressure to Conform in a group and
  5. the Local Contexts.
Chains are the cause of confusion, anger, arrogance, false submissiveness and mis-understanding. Primarily they lead to a life of misgivings, wrong expectations, hurried gratifications. Mental chains are the hooks in thoughts that hold each other together and bind your brain and heart into believing in constraints. The hooks in successive thoughts lead you to a single polaroid view than seeing the whole light.

Break them and you suddenly

  1. Are Receptive
  2. Are Listening
  3. Are Amiable
  4. Wield the decision remote
  5. Play the choir in perfect harmony
  6. Saddle dissipation to an innovative path
  7. Become biased to absolute truth and an all-round problem solver.
Ever attempted once ? Try breaking the chain of education and step into world of self-learning.
  1. You will see the same subject interesting.
  2. You will realize that there are so many passionate people around the subject.
  3. You find motivation levels deep inside that go way past passing exams.
  4. You feel the reality about an innate professor within you who can change the world by elucidating the subject better.
  5. You get up dreaming, talking, writing about the subject through care and "caressing its nuances".

Now, having broken the mental chain, find out what a strong personality means? It will mean to you about
  1. Being Interesting
  2. Getting friendlier
  3. Becoming "listened to"
  4. Caring enough to state the bitter truth
  5. Getting unexpressed admiration and readers 
What mental chains have you broken today ?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Walk the Slope or Climb the Steep: The choice for Training Departments

Does your training department act to be responsive, adaptable, friendly and get you to reach relevant training on demand ? Thereby, making it a business centric function with returns, Or do they follow a time table of sessions,as a corporate mandate to keep the show going, based on a list of approved titles ? Thereby, adding it as a cost component in the balance sheet and using it as a mere tool to justify the means and not the end.

Either ways, training departments fulfill a gap and need. Is the gap and need an imperative, or a ritual, is largely determined by the people, sponsorship and cultural DNA desired by the training team themselves and the clout the CxOs wish they can get with training help.

The rigor of training teams can be explained in 3 slopes of a right handed triangle.

Can you determine the slope you current are and the slope you wish to move the compass ?

Climbing the steep is easier once the tactical plan is accepted and agreed upon. It is less budget centric issue but a strenous job, that is considered more as "not worth the effort".

Only that the "will" to climb the steep is sadly missing with many training departments. Any points missed out? Let me know.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Top 6 elements for a good draft

Keeping the 6 elements listed below will improve the chances of continuous success and victory in realizing what you expect. In short, they allow you to be better in art of good drafting.

1. Present the case with a Perspective: The catch is just that the perspective should not be yours. It should be that of your readers.

When your client is reading a proposal, they have a notional impression of what they want to see. Hence the writing should contain business style and highlighting of key value elements. Fast forward it to reading a Statement of Work, it contains the same proposal content, but now this is a legally binding document. Hence qualitative adjectives need to replace with quantitative adjectives. Same goes for a business brochure vs capability document. Both highlight the same, but a business brochure can be in third person language (like "the team has excelled in many implementations"), while the same in a capability document must have a protogonist feel ("We, as a team have excelled in many implementations"). The differences are subtle, but the expressive form requires adaptation based on the document purpose. The purpose as you can see is determined by reader and not by you.

2. Add Your Take: This is your forte. This is critical to establish a rapport, your reputation. This section gives the reader a reason to spend time on your draft. It is important to let them know that you have thought through what is shared with them. Which side, what points you want to present and how is it that you position them is the only unique factor in the document.
Any draft ending as an information dump should not be shared at all
. Be it any form of request/response communication or a documentation to share across your readers, offer your take on the subject. You have to say something that is your own derived from the information presented. An example could be "Based on the case, I believe we should take action in following key areas." In this world of easy one-touch publishing, giving your take on a subject is all that can be a unique factor.

3. Place the Hooks: How are you sure, that your draft and pain staking provisioning of pages of information is read? It is important that you get the message back. One way is to provide with enough options to allow the reader to get in touch with you. But not many will attempt giving their views.

To have a fair understanding that your readers have read/skimmed/analysed the document, you need to place hooks that allow your users to pause/take a break and brood on the subject. After enough instances, provide means to prod them reach you. All the time, it is not necessary that they will come up with questions. At times, it is to pass a good comment, give their reactions in a single word (like/not like).

Hooks, unlike other elements needs to be strewn in the document. Your writing should make the reader become an actor and visioning the play that just watching it.

4. Where is the Key:
Are there pointers and take-away from your document for further action ? The action could be using the document details to verify facts, google for more information or use some of them in another document that I am working on (well, some may call it piracy and copyright violation. Be careful about that.)

The keys when being visual or represented in a visualization help place the point across in a non-boring and amplified fashion. So do not discard visuals in your document and do not over do it. Since keys should not be more than 6 to remember as a take away. In commercial documents, it is mostly the final price value that is read and discussed.

5. Develop Intuition to decide what you would like as Judgement:
This is not part of the written document, but should be the goal of the document. In my school days, one of my classmates used to write answers to questions in class test and used to lift the paper, move it away from her and think about it. Then she used to ask me, is this answer worth 10 marks? Now I realize that she somehow cared to develop the intuition about the judgement that she wants and would receive. Then I observed that she did what she thought would fetch her marks. Sometimes, coloring and highlighting important phrases, sometimes writing more, sometimes keeping it to last. I used to wonder what message did she get by lifting, moving it away and thinking about it?

It was fun and stylish to do so. So, I followed it and recently my dad told me that I always guessed the marks I would score correctly immediately after giving the exams. I still do so. Read through proposals, rehearse presentations and ask myself, is what I do worth getting the order? Will leave the outcome to your guesses :)

Developing the intuition to verify if the judgement would be in your favor, is a quality trait that you need to bring in for good drafting.

6. Call to Action:
When we speak creativity, we always envision a canvas painting or a visual depiction (say infographics.) Draft is equivalent and is an art of playing with words. It is a verbal art. Just as art pieces attract you to think, good documents should attract you to take action.

With time being a constraint and constant bombardment of information from various sources, we cannot practice what artists have the luxury. The luxury is their prospective customers, spend their time for looking at their work in galleries or take time to appreciate it.

We don't get that luxury. So better to incorporate explicit call to action statements in your documents.
Call us, email us, let us know what you feel are all statements of intent to take the relationship forward.

So what do you think ?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Good Writing aint Drafting. Draft is Art.

From my child hood, I have heard my dad exhorting his students and colleagues to improvise their drafting skills. In fact, his first advice to my wife (Lawyer by degree) is to specialize in drafting. Ironically, I can see that none of them were as excited as him and to me too, it seemed a de-glamourized, non-starter for a full time career.

The higher forms of communication is actually the art of excellent drafting and presentation (not PPT the physical presence in a audience setting). Me, till now and most of us still fail to realize this fact and benefits.

Drafting skills are very different from normal good writing and communication skills. Good writing skills cannot differentiate between messages, responses, document types and context of the audience. Writing and communication skills required for all of them are same: Clear messages delivered through sentences that are grammatically correct.

But is that all you do while you require a favorable decision every time in your side? It would be a mistake to think this to be the case. These forms of writing and communication are temporal in nature, while the time tested, generation driven communications are league apart and they are the realm of good drafting.

Good drafts provide powerful personal impacting moments coming to life and making the messages obvious than being "led to believe". Examples of good drafts abound in legends, bedtime stories, rumors, documentaries on historical events, religious texts (Bible, Bhagwad Gita, etc.), iconic best sellers books. These share a trait that is
  1. Meaningful,
  2. Annotated multiple times.
  3. Add value as they are explained and passed along.
We may not create such great drafts, but realizing that you are drafting rather than communicating when ever you are in a social environment will take you leaping miles ahead in success and victories.  Please bear in mind, when ever:
  1. You want to send a message that requires a positive response in your favor,
  2. You are responding to a query that is to be evaluated for a decision,
  3. The context in which your writing is going to be consumed,
all require good drafting skills.

A sad note is, good drafts and people who do so are not a  commercial valued entity. Just as in Art, they are valued long after their life, and are revered in reputation than in money. So if you are in game for monetary considerations, good communication skills can take you there. If you need to be known and remembered, you need to be a good drafter.

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