The thing about common sense is…it’s not that common.
- Voltaire [paraphrased]
The thing about common sense is…it’s not that common.
Message From Eric - a.k.a. the WeirdGuy
As a reader of WeirdGuy blog I’d like to humbly ask you to help me. I have a short 10 question survey running from August 28 – September 7, 2008 on Zoomerang. The survey should take 2-3 minutes to run through. Your thoughtful responses will aid me in future developments for this blog.
I realize I am asking you to volunteer your time, but I value your opinion. Please follow the link provided today — the survey is only available for 10 days.
And, if the survey takes longer than 2-3 minutes then you can feel free to spam me with your hate mail.
Thank you for your patronage…can I say “patronage”?…whatever, you know what I mean.
By the way, I’ll reveal the findings here on WeirdGuy when the survey is up, so if you want your response to count, now is the time to act…now! If you do not care, then what are you doing here at WeirdGuy blog to begin with?
- Organic food producers, retailers
- Computational biologists
- Parallel programmers
- Data technologists
- Simulation engineers
- Boomer companions, caretakers
- Genetic counseling
- Brain analysts
- Space tour guide
- Robot builders, tenders
So, what are you waiting for? Strap on your rocket pack and zoom over to the nearest talent agency. You may be the outer space entrepreneur.
By E. Brown
If the visual display of content is something that you ponder over on a regular basis (and what good e-Learning developer or Instructional Designer doesn’t?), be sure to visit Visual Literacy today. There are all kinds of fun things to discover. One of my favorites was the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Check it out!
Your friend, co-worker, or roommate gets a package. When they open it you see the object protectively shielded in bubble wrap. Then the urge overtakes you and you start popping the small air-filled cells as quickly as you can. Oh, what a delight. It reminds you of your childhood, but then your parents were quick to say, “would you stop making that noise?” You look over and your friend has a similar look on their face. Oh well, some things never change.
See more about Bubble Wrap Calendars
Here Amy Tan talks about, “Where does creativity hide?” Tell me your thoughts.
By E. Brown
I am still not sold on the value of Twitter (See Twitter for the ADD Generation). Yet, Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, sees great worth in using the socila medium for spreading the word and getting feedback about his company.
Here is a brief piece from an interview with Inc. Magazine:
You have 5,681 “followers” signed up to read your Twitter updates — that’s not just employees. Who are they?
We have eight million customers. It’s been great for getting feedback. For example, we have a new website that’s still in beta. As we make improvements, I’ll send out a Twitter message asking people what they think.
And you additionally can track anyone who mentions Zappos on Twitter. Here’s an actual example: “Just bought boots on Zappos. Grt cust svc–sent an email last night asking about hiking boots for flat wide feet and had links this AM.” Are Twits a good focus group?
It’s been really useful, finding out what actual word-of-mouth conversations are out there.
Of course, all the Twitter updates from Zappos employees are public, too. Anyone can read about your employees finding good bars to meet at and drink at. You posted a message about your nipples being chafed from surfboard wax. Couldn’t that kind of candor scare customers or business partners or investors?
There may be some times when an individual Twitter message out of context can give a bad impression. But generally people on Twitter aren’t just looking at one single Tweet. They see what we do over time. For customers, I think it’s a way to get an inside glimpse of what our people are like and what our culture is like. Our belief is that your culture and your brand are, ultimately, the same thing. Your brand might lag your culture, but eventually it’s going to catch up. I think where companies are finding challenges now is they want to project this great brand, but if inside the company it’s not a great culture, then they’re going to be in trouble in the long term. For us, I just think it’s important to be real and authentic.
See the entire article on Inc.com to find out more.
…all play and intertwine in the composition of great photos.
They draw the viewer in and beg the questions,
“Who is this?”
“What is happening?”
“What has happened?”
“Where is this?”
And, in so doing draw us into introspection…
…such is the power of great photos.
[Photos from ArTeTeTrA]
When designing and writing courses, descriptive and sensory language can often be lacking. Informational and factual verbiage is more the norm. Karon’s article relates to copywriting and should be heeded by marketing writers as well as instructional designers to create a truly immersive learning experience.
In its most basic form, copywriting is, among other things, the art of conveying a message in writing for the purpose of persuading someone to do something. This is especially true when writing descriptive copy.
Why? Because your customer’s five senses don’t work on paper, they only work in person. That’s why we, as copywriters, have to create a sensory experience for our customers through our words.
Have you ever stopped to consider copywriting as a sensory activity? You should. In order to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel a product, we have to be in the presence of that product. All too often, when copywriters create descriptions, they leave a lot to be desired. There is no excitement, no interaction, no experience.
Descriptions should be, well, descriptive.
Effective descriptions should fill the gap of what customers would see, hear, smell, taste, or feel if they were standing in the presence of the product. Effective descriptions should draw customers in and create an actual event… as if they were able to be right there with you.
Do you make cinnamon rolls? You wouldn’t want to describe them simply as “delicious” or say they “smell great.” Instead, you’d want to bring your customers into the experience of enjoying your cinnamon rolls. Think of which of their five senses would be most in tune with your product and write to those.
The scents of freshly ground cinnamon and yeast begin to merge as the dough rises and the cinnamon, sugar and butter begin to bubble. Open your oven door to reveal one of the largest sweets you’ve ever seen.
Drizzle the homemade frosting over the top to complete your warm, gooey treasure. Your taste buds will praise you with every bite!
Can you smell the cinnamon? Can you visualize the dough rising in the oven with the cinnamon and sugar bubbling on the top of each roll?
Are you remembering the times you’ve glazed cinnamon rolls in the past and, with sticky fingers, taken that first bite out of a freshly baked, warm, gooey pastry? This copy brings it all back, doesn’t it?
Do you rent private, Jamaican beachfront condos? Taking a basic route and falling back on the phrases “ocean view” and “sunsets are included” will leave your reader lacking a truly intriguing experience.
Something like this will work better…
A morning stroll along your private, white sand beach is the perfect way to welcome the day. A fun-filled outing can consist of splashing in the surf, sunning on the beach or napping in an authentic hand-woven hammock that cuddles every curve of your body. At the end of the day, you’ll have sun-kissed shoulders, a glowing bronze tan, and a phenomenal appetite.
Unwind at the poolside gazebo as you prepare for a world-class dinner that rivals any five-star restaurant. Refreshing after-dinner cocktails are especially enjoyable when sipped on the terrace as nature provides an amazing display of sunsets and a soft, caressing breeze you won’t soon forget.
Let’s go! “Splashing in the surf, sunning on the beach, or napping in an authentic hand-woven hammock that cuddles every curve of your body.” Can you just imagine? How about “sun-kissed shoulders, a glowing bronze tan”? That paints a picture, doesn’t it? Can you feel that warm tingling you always get after spending a day in the sun?
“Nature provides an amazing display of sunsets and a soft, caressing breeze.” I’m ready! Where do I sign up?
Are you beginning to see the importance of writing truly descriptive descriptions? Your customers aren’t there.
They can’t see, hear, feel, taste, or smell what you can. You have to do the next best thing and vividly depict what their sensory experiences will be like so they’ll want to buy what you have or do what you’ve done.
When you write descriptive copy, choose the senses that are most appropriate and focus on them. If you’re describing food, of course you’ll want to think about what you’re tasting but also what you smell and see. (Presentation is just as important as taste.) If you’re writing travel copy, you’ll want to focus on sights and sounds plus feelings (relaxation, enjoyment, excitement, etc.).
Your goal is to have your readers close their eyes and genuinely, vividly imagine they are in the midst of the same experience you are. When you accomplish that, you’ll find your sales increase as will your bank account balance!
-Source: Karon Thackston of the Marketing Words.
By E. Brown
I’ll be taking a week off to focus on closing out a project (July 28-August 1). More to come from the lessons learned during this engagement. It’s a really cool online course with custom hooks into a client app. The back-end was designed as “plug and play” so content can quickly and easily be swapped out while still being applicable to the course testing and grading scenarios.
See you in a week.
What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of the recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
–Herbert Simon (Recipient of Nobel Memorial Prize)
One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.
By Dan Coughlin
In the past 14 months I’ve given 70 presentations including keynotes, luncheon speeches, after-dinner speeches and seminars in virtually every market in the U.S. and mainly for corporate groups of CEOs, key executives, and entrepreneurs. But the most memorable group I spoke to was the May 2008 graduating class of J.E.T. (Jobs and Employment Training) at St. Patrick’s Center on May 30th in my hometown of St. Louis
St. Patrick’s Center does noble work in helping homeless people find hope and generate permanent, positive changes in their lives. However, the thing I like the best about St. Patrick’s Center is they are very practical. They don’t just talk about helping people create permanent, positive changes in their lives; they dive in and get things done. They help people find a place to stay and they provide them with training on interviewing and job skills necessary to re-enter the workforce. One of their programs is called J.E.T., which is a twelve-week program on a variety of computer skills that will help the graduate increase their chances of gaining meaningful work.
Overcoming Life’s Greatest Obstacles
There were nine people in the graduating class at J.E.T. ranging in age from approximately 25 to 45. I met each of them briefly before my speech and got to know their names. I won’t list them here, but I’ll also never forget them. I could see the excitement over their accomplishments in their eyes. I felt the passion in their dreams. I had to do everything I could to keep myself from crying in front of the audience, which included their family members and friends. It could have been the graduation ceremonies at Harvard because that’s how excited each of these individuals was that day.
To me, these nine individuals represent everything that I’ve written about and spoken about over the past 11 years. They had just completed a 12-week course to increase their capacity to gain meaningful work, and they were incredibly proud of what they had learned and accomplished. They were enthusiastic about the future. They were ready to get on with it.
Isn’t that what life is about? Going after dreams and trying to better ourselves so we can make a greater contribution to other people. Jackie Robinson, the baseball player, said something to the effect that the whole purpose of life is to make a difference in the lives of other people. Well, if that’s true and I think it is, then bettering our selves in order to add value to other people is an important part of the process, and that part should be celebrated.
These nine individuals were moving from a life of homelessness and despair to a life of hope and contribution and carving out the careers they wanted for themselves. One lady stopped me after the ceremonies and said, “St. Patrick’s Center gave me my self-esteem back and now I’m excited about the future.” I almost said to her that no one can instill self-esteem into another person. Self-esteem means the value a person sees in himself or herself. Only the individual can strengthen his or her own self-esteem. As Abraham Maslow said many years ago, “True self-esteem rests on a feeling of personal dignity, the feeling that you are in control of your own decisions and your own destiny.” No one can give you a feeling of being in control of your own decisions. Only you can develop the feeling that you are in control of your own decisions.
But I understood what the woman meant. She meant that St. Patrick’s Center provided an environment of encouragement where she could focus on her strengths and the value she can bring to other people. In doing so, this woman took the time to realize everything she had to offer to the world. That is how self-esteem is built.
I met a teacher named John that day who told me about a life course offered at St. Patrick’s Center on realizing that every super successful leader overcame odds to make a difference in the lives of other people. I totally agree. Walt Disney and Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oprah Winfrey and Mohandas Gandhi didn’t just wake up one day ready to contribute. They honed their ability to add value until one day they were so good that other people opened their eyes to all the value they had to offer. Martin Luther King, Jr. worked at writing essays and giving sermons long before he started changing the world for the better in 1955.
Graduation Day taught me or re-taught me so many lessons:
o In giving we receive. I was more touched by those 45 minutes with those nine graduates who had transformed despair into direction, homelessness into hopefulness, and frustration into focus than any work project I’ve done in the past ten years.
o We all need to take the time to recall the value we have to offer to other people. It’s wonderful to help other people see their value, but it’s just as important that we take the time to see the value we have to offer to other people. Recall your past success stories where you made a difference in the lives of other people and the strengths and passions you have to offer to other people.
o Lift your head to see the difference you’re making in the world. You can get so busy giving love to other people that you may not see the impact that your love is making in the world.
o Celebrate life’s most important transitions. That ceremony was a moment to savor like a fine meal. Climbing a mountain means resting at the plateaus. Rest, re-energize, let the success soak in, and then plot your next move up Mt. Contribution, the real-life mountain of trying to make a difference in the lives of other people that we are all trying to climb.
o Pause occasionally from helping your work team move forward and trying to move your career forward and look around you for opportunities to give to others who will never be able to repay you, at least not financially. There are so many magnificent organizations within 30 minutes of your home. What non-financial contribution can you make for them? How can you use your strengths and passions to deliver real value to people who simply can’t afford to pay you?
o Achieving a specific, measurable objective at work is important. Achievements are the basis of promotions, raises, and career growth. Hitting a number is about a goal. Living with purpose is about the soul. Ask yourself, “What is my purpose?” Write down your purpose. Then pour your efforts into both your work and your community events to fulfill your purpose.
In watching the tributes to Tim Russert, I was reminded that great business managers still take the time to give back their strengths and their passions to their communities. As many people thanked him for what he did outside of NBC as he did inside Meet the Press.
Dan Coughlin is a business keynote speaker, management consultant, and author of Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum.
1. Try everything twice.
On Madams tombstone (of Whelan’s and Madam) she said she wanted this epitaph: Tried everything twice…loved it both times!
2. Keep only cheerful friends.
The grouches pull you down. (keep this in mind if you are one of those grouches)
3. Keep learning!
Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain get idle. ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s!
4. Enjoy the simple things.
5. Laugh often, long, and loud.
Laugh until you gasp for breath. And if you have a friend who makes you laugh, spend lots and lots of time with HIM/HER.
￼6. The tears happen.
Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. LIVE while you are alive.
7. Surround yourself with what you love.
Whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.
8. Cherish your health.
If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
9. Don’t take guilt trips.
Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county, to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.
10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity!
11. Forgive now those who made you cry…you might not get a second time.
This piece was built by Alex Holden. Alex says of the project…
The pictured device is a prototype of Joseph Bazalgette’s patent sewer maintenance machine, as demonstrated at the Great Crystal Cyberdrome Exhibition. Its boiler is fired by miasma and it is fitted with a variety of cleaning and pest-control ancillaries. Unfortunately the high manufacturing cost and the temperamental nature of their modified rat brains meant that after the initial batch of fifty had escaped Bazalgette was forced to employ men to maintain London’s sewers. Even today, you can put your ear to a manhole cover in our capital city and hear the distant clanking of brass wheels on brick walkways and the squeal of exterminated rodents.
In case you missed last week, here is your one stop review of all things from WeirdGuy blog. Have fun!
I saw this article from Dan and had to share. Simplicity and creativity are often themes you’ll find on WeirdBlog. Enjoy!
By Dan Coughlin
Barb and I have a special marriage bonding ritual. On Sunday nights we put the kids to bed and then we cuddle up and watch Desperate Housewives. No matter what challenges we’re facing nothing compares to the lives on Wisteria Lane. Hey, don’t blame me. Barb was the one who wanted me to watch Teri Hatcher and I just got hooked.
At the end of season four, something very strange happened. The last scene started with three words: Five Years Later. Everything seemed turned upside down. Susan had a new husband, Lynette and Tom’s young children were suddenly teenagers, Bre was a mega–successful party planner, and Eva Longoria inexplicably looked frumpy. We thought maybe it was just an end of the season joke, but we found out the next day that the producer, Marc Cherry, had created these changes with a purpose in mind.
He said he just wanted to start the next season with a clean slate. He found that he was falling into a trap of extending story lines from the first three seasons, and he wanted an opportunity to energize the creativity on the show. So he shook things up and took a chance. The show might bomb, but at least he demonstrated the courage not to settle for the status quo. Instead he reached for something new, within the framework of the show he created.
Apple’s Forays into the Wilderness
Sometimes we forget that Apple was not always Fortune’s most admired company in the world. Back in the late 1990s Apple was doing everything it could to reduce inventory, get focused, and avoid bankruptcy. So they decided to shake things up, with a purpose in mind. They decided to open up Apple retail stores so that customers could see their products up close and get to know them better. They were also able to provide great hands–on training. Gateway Computers had just exited retail stores having lost a ton of money. Critics said that Apple would regret opening up stores. Well, let’s see. They soon generated a billion dollars a year through those stores, and later generated a billion dollars a quarter. Sometimes it’s worth it to shake things up.
New Ideas Don’t Always Work, But They Do Open Up New Possibilities
Thomas Edison was always shaking things up and oftentimes failing spectacularly. Not just in light bulbs, but in concrete and phonographs and telephones and on and on. But even in his failures he found some nuisance that could be used in combination with other ideas. Same could be said for Walt Disney and GE and virtually every successful person and organization. Be willing to mix things up.
To be Purposeful You Have To Have a Purpose
Why does your organization exist? Don’t look at your corporate brochure, just tell me conversationally why your organization exists. What is its purpose? I’ve helped dozens of organizations and groups answer that question for themselves, but I almost never took the time to think about it for my one–person business. Then it dawned on me that no matter how big or small a business is, it has to have a purpose in order to shake things up with a purpose.
On a flight home last week I started doodling around in the back of a book and I landed on my company’s mission and philosophy. Those words seem so fancy for such a small enterprise, but the impact a company has on other people is not based on the number of employees it has. It is based on the value contributed to the customers.
Here’s The Coughlin Company’s Mission & Philosophy:
- Provide practical processes to propel great performances.
- Embrace simplicity and avoid process creep.
Those 13 words summarized my whole approach to creating value for customers. At the end of the day, my work is to give you a process you can consider using to improve your results. Also, as I have written before, I’ve noticed that smart, hard–working people tend to want processes that are really complicated because simple ones seem too easy. Smart, hard–working folks tend to take simple processes that are delivering really good results and make them really complicated in the hopes of achieving amazing results. It doesn’t usually work that way. My philosophy is to encourage people to embrace simple approaches and then work to hone them to an even greater degree of simplicity rather than a greater degree of complexity.
Clarify Your Purpose
In order to shake things up for yourself or your organization, clarify your purpose. Then within that purpose ask yourself, “What can I do or we do to mix up what we’re doing and generate new levels of innovation, creativity and customer value?” Don’t try 20 changes. Just select one or two things you’re going to shake up a bit and see what possibilities those changes create.
I read two wonderful books this month: “The Enzo Ferrari Story” by Enzo Ferrari, and “Inside Steve’s Brain” by Leander Kahney. Both of these books talk a great deal about the importance of shaking things up with a purpose in mind at Ferrari and at Apple.
Soak up the ideas, good and bad, from everything you do and see, in and out of the office. Then decide what aligns with your purpose. Determine what’s worth giving a shot. And ensure the process is simple. Sometimes it’s hard to fathom that it can be, just that easy.
Dan Coughlin is a management consultant and author of “Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum”. He speaks on entrepreneurial habits, quality, leadership, branding, sales, and innovation
- The Art of Simplification
- The Tao Of Presentations
- Peter Pan and Willy Wonka On Creative Thinking
- Creative Ways To Make Complex Information Simple
- Creativity, Innovation, and Online Learning Reading List and Links