Archive for November, 2013

Brevity

Image

Today is the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address.   Lincoln was not the Keynote speaker and his address was only 271 words long.

If I asked you, who the keynote speaker was on that day I suspect you would not know.  Although I knew the speech was 2 hours long, I could not remember the speaker’s name (Edward Everett).   Even if I had,  it would have been for the length of the speech, not its substance.  How many times does this happen during an entrepreneur’s pitch?

Although I know that garrulous does not always equal gregarious I have a hard time remembering it.  And when I forget, I too suffer the fate of Edward Everett.  In the end, people walk away confused, exhausted or irritated.  Length does not translate into depth, and the goal is to capture an audience’s interest not hold it hostage.

In John Mayer’s song ‘Gravity’ he says “twice as much ain’t twice as good…” and I confess that I hear those words in my head when I am in some conversations or presentations.  When I am lucky, it happens when I am doing all the talking and it serves to get me to be quiet and listen.

Image

The best advice I have ever gotten on this challenge is from Tom Skerritt’s character in “A River Runs Through it”.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4php_B1LQiM .  If you read Norman MacLean’s story on which this movie is based, you know he lived it (it’s only 100 pages long).

Remember: Try to make what you say or write shorter and have the humility to know that your words are not ends in themselves.

Wait! That is “knot” the way to solve the problem!

I came across Mike Myatt’s tweet @Mikemyatt about the Gordian institute @gordian_inst and it made me smile.  I am a sucker for metaphors, so the Gordian reference had me thinking about the story surrounding the Gordian knot.  Image

As you may recall, the Gordian knot refers to a legend involving Alexander the Great and a knot so hopelessly complex no one could untie it.  All believed the knot was so complex that only a the greatest of wise leaders could untie it. When confronted with this intractable problem, and unable to solve it conventionally, Alexander simply pulled out his sword and cut the knot.

Many consider this cheating.

It reminded me of a something we all do when confronted with a problem.  We give it a power that it neither possesses nor deserves.  It severely limits our creative thinking and makes simple solutions impossible to see or consider. After all, something so complex must require a very complex solution!  We drape the problem in assumptions that make it impossible to solve.  We study, we analyze… we sit there  “admiring the hell out of the problem” as Derek Sherry says.

Once, when my father was packing up his car after visiting with us, he was struggling to get his luggage to fit back in the trunk of the car.  He learned in the navy that the most efficient way to pack clothes was to roll them and he applied that thinking universally.  So, when he went to pack the large rubber floor mat he purchased while he was here he rolled it. However, the mat was not flexible enough to roll tightly and the width of it took up a lot of the room in the trunk.

My wife walked up, looked at the situation and said: “Why don’t you lay the mat out flat on the floor of the trunk?”

Talk about a sword to the heart of the problem (and his thinking)… Boy was my Dad mad.  It was almost like she was cheating.


Follow me on Twitter

Dan Clark

Dan Clark

Principal of Bowline Consulting, process designer/fixer, wireless telecom veteran, addicted pick up soccer player, fly fisher, backpacker, beer brewer, guitar player, choir singer, recovering bag piper

View Full Profile →


%d bloggers like this: