I know, we're a day early. But since many of you are already eating the candy, and I thought I could use one more pumpkin-and-costume graphic, with puppies, we're posting a day early. This week I had a lovely time with connections and colleagues from the Toronto Product Management Association, where I was sharing a facilitator's-eye view of meetings and how to make them work for you. My first rule: treat your colleagues like you would treat your customers - give them and their ideas the same level of respect and consideration. No one likes meetings, for sure, but there are some key things that make them run more smoothly:
*The Ivory Taboo Tower is a "secret parking lot" out of the room, or on a discreet wall, where people can note topics that are taboo to talk about, and yet are having an impact on getting things done, agreeing, or moving forward.
I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA, along with Steve Willson. We help you and your company to see everything you need to know to make better decisions, so you can find, understand, and keep customers. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook, and if you'd like more news you can use, delivered straight to your inbox, click the handy button below to sign up.
"We don't have enough information to make a decision!"
"Everything is so unclear!"
"We need more research, but we don't know where to start."
"Of course we have a research objective. In fact, we've got five or six of them."
Often when we hear clients expressing these things, we work with them to discover that it isn't a lack of information, but a lack of clarity about what they know, and don't know, about the problem. If you're dealing with this in your organization, and you have limited resources, the last thing you should do is invest in more research (yet). First, you've got to wade through the complexity and ambiguity and sort out exactly what you need. And a sorting activity is an excellent first step. Here's how you can get started:
Sorting exercises may seem simplistic, but there's a reason these are one of the first things we teach to babies, and then to kids learning to read, and later, to people who are programming, filing, organizing, or creating an information architecture. They help us get to the gist of what we need to know, to make sense of the world. And they can help you do better research, more efficiently, and for less time and money. I'm sure of it.
My name is Megann Willson, and with my partner, Steve Willson, we run PANOPTIKA, where we help our clients see everything they need to know to find, understand, and keep customers. You can also find us on LinkedIn, on Twitter, or Facebook. If you'd like more news you can use to grow your business, subscribe to our weekly updates, and the occasional offer, using the link below.
"Make a u-turn as soon as possible!"
Was she really shrieking at us, the GPS woman? It started to sound that way when we toured Lyon, in the middle of a city-wide tram-track upgrade. Every direction was the wrong direction. Or was it? One day out of a magical vacation a few years ago, we found ourselves in GPS hell. The GPS was not helping, since every one of her directions led us to another detour, or blocked road, or "no exit" sign. Finally, Steve suggested we just shut her off and stop listening. (Perhaps not as gently as that sounds).
We did it. And what happened? Nothing. We took a few twists and turns, saw parts of the old city, Vieux-Lyon, not meant to be on our route, and eventually, we took a beautiful waterside walk. Then we went on our way. Drove to Beaune. Bought some wine. Went back to our rented maison. Made dinner.
What's the point of all this? It's that few things are as urgent as they seem. It is rarely too late. Any direction can end up being the right direction. So the next time someone is barking directions and contradicting them in short order, switch it off. Step back. Think about the outcome you are really trying to achieve, and head in the direction that experience, understanding, instinct and any material fact (like a compass heading, the sun, or data) tells you is right.
I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. Steve Willson and I work every day with clients to help them get answers and to see everything they need to know to make better decisions. And sometimes our advice is to stop asking for more answers, and trust what you've already learned, including the data that's right in front of you. You can also find us on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and occasionally on Facebook.
"Plans don't work out."
"No business plan survives first contact with the customer."
"If you want to hear God laugh, tell her your plans."
Have you heard these? We know we have. Usually from people who don't want to invest the time in putting their plans to paper. Here's what we also know: committing to a direction in writing, clarifies and solidifies your thinking. It lets you get clarity on:
1. Where you want your business or product to go
2. What actions you believe it will take to get there
3. How you want your customers or stakeholders to react
4. A set of benchmarks you can use to measure, adapt, and adjust as you implement
That last part is usually the part that gets forgotten. The plan isn't a stone tablet. Just like the blueprint for a new house is only the beginning of what that place will need to become a home, the plan is a starting place. When you have a bias for action (as I do), it can feel slow, cumbersome, and frustrating sometimes. But it can also provide great clarity as you work through it. Used right, it lets you document your learning as you go. It becomes a body of evidence of your experiments, hypotheses, and assumptions, and it can help build critical thinking and the ability to "see around corners" - keeping you in business for a long time.
I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them see everything they need to do to make better decisions for their business, so they can find, understand, and keep their best customers. Since 2001 we've helped hundreds of companies with thousands of business challenges, and we can help you, too. What are we seeing? Follow us on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or set an appointment for a no-obligation conversation about what you're trying to solve in your business.
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This week I was reading The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz. It's not a new book; in fact it was written in 1959. And although the tone may seem a bit old-timey, much of the advice is as valid today, as when it was new. Schwartz is a big believer in goal-setting, and in the importance of setting out with a plan. He also alluded to a problem we see in the research and consulting business, which is the gathering of data for data's sake, and an over-emphasis on keeping vast repositories of information in our heads or at our fingertips, as a way to "add value" to ourselves. But machines can do that. Here's what Dr. Schwartz said: "More and more we rely on books, files, and machines to warehouse information. If we can only do what a machine can do, we're in a real fix."
It's not the data (however big) that helps us make better sense of the world, understand our customers better, find new markets, sell more, or grow our businesses. It's the synthesis of the data - what we do with it, how we shape it, where we find connections - and our "knowledge goals", that make a difference. Knowing what we want to do with the answers, how we want to use them, and why they're important to us, will help us have a richer understanding of the people we're investigating in our research. Before adding yet another question to an overly-long survey, or jumping in like Columbo with a "just one more thing" query, ask yourself these things:
If you have good answers for those, and you're still comfortable asking, by all means, go for it. Then use what you've learned wisely and do something excellent for the person responding. That is why you're asking, isn't it?
I'm Megann Willson, and with my partner, Steve Willson, we've been helping PANOPTIKA's customers see everything they need to know to make better decisions for richer customer relationships, for over 18 years. You can also follow us on Twitter or connect on Facebook or LinkedIn. And if you'd like to join our community to have the conversation come right to your inbox, there's a button below that will do the trick.
Megann and Steve, Partners in PANOPTIKA, are working for our clients every day to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions in their complex business environment.
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