Happy New Year’s Day, everyone. This being 2009, I should start the new year with a fresh, positive approach. (Yes, this is a 180 from my somewhat cynical Dec. 31 post, but 2008 was a long, arduous year.) So here are some nice motivational and inspirational nuggets from around the web.
An incomplete manifesto for growth, from Bruce Mau Design (hat tip to Brand Autopsy). Written in 1998, the manifesto is “an articulation of statements exemplifying Bruce Mau’s beliefs, strategies and motivations,” the company’s website says. “Collectively, they are how we approach every project.” Great words of wisdom for designers and creative types, as well as for the rest of us. The list of 43 things is well worth reading, printing out and posting on your wall. Here are a few of my favorites from the list:
12. Slow down.
Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
32. Listen carefully.
Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
For those in management, remember: you (we) perform every day. Author Bob Sutton posted this excerpt from a book by a theater director and related how it — and other portions of the book — pertain to bosses everywhere.
As a director, you are there to explain things to people and to tell them what to do (even if it means telling them that they can do whatever they want). Speak clearly. Speak Briefly. Guard against the director’s first great vice – rabbiting on, making the same point again and again, getting laughs from your inimitable (and interminable) anecdotes, wasting time.
And guard against the the second great vice, the idiot fill-in phrases: “You know,” “I mean,” “Sort of…,” “Kind of…,” “Er, er um….” These are bad enough in ordinary conversation; coming from someone who may be giving instructions for up to three hours a day, they can be a justification for homicide.
Lessons from the art of jazz: part 1 and part 2. Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) draws lessons from the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change your Life, by Wynton Marsalis and Geoffrey Ward, and applies them to his own passion: presentation.
Data itself is always dry without meaning. Yet, you can add the spirit of jazz to it in a presentation. By “spirit of jazz” I mean the complete opposite of how people usually use the term jazz as in “jazz it up” (that is, decorate it up). If the intent is pure and the message clear then that is all you can do. Jazz means removing the barriers and making it accessible, helping people to get your point (your message, your story). This does not necessarily mean you will always be direct (though this is often the clearest path). Hint and suggestion are powerful too. The difference is hint and suggestion with intent has a purpose and is done with the audience/user in mind. Hint and suggestion without intent or sincerity may merely result in simplistic, ineffective ramblings or even obsfucation.
If you approach the presentation of the data like a jazz musician approaches a piece of music then you will indeed be true to the message and the meaning of the data and you will make it “sticky and sweet” and not dry in the sense that you are understood. You will know you are understood when you see the heads nodding just like the musician sees the feet tapping. The audience may not agree with you — but they understand you. Understanding is the first step in persuasion. It’s OK if people disagree with your results or interpretations — that’s all part of the conversation, part of the process. What is not OK is for people to be confused by your words.