Would you Rather Pay for the Words, or for the Work?

Achieve SMARTER Aims using conversation as a tool

You're probably used to contrasting activity with results. But this narrative hides a deeper truth. One worth exploring. Because often, what you're buying is the potential of a promise. One that could transfer to creating value for company and customers.

Reality is ever evolving. And so should you. Growth is a moving target. Digital media have helped us see how much of our experience is temporary. Even the consequences, with vanishing accountability. The goalpost a stop on the way, rather than a destination.

The payoff occurs when your

exploration and learning are part of it.

Collaboration makes exploration easier and creates broader opportunities through learning.


Culture and a sense of belonging

The two are part of the same conversation along a spectrum of options. I'll use a beautiful example via Ian Leslie about Prince Harry and British culture to illustrate. (Lest you think I pick only on Italy, both in a good way of course!)

Leslie picks apart the deeper currents in culture from Prince Harry becoming “Chief Impact Officer” of a mental health startup and “Commissioner on Information Disorder” for the Aspen Foundation:

He has no qualifications or special talents for either role, but that’s OK because neither require him to do anything except be ‘Prince Harry’.

Citing Sam Leith he says, “Harry is now just a different type of figurehead, having exchanged one emotionally arid micro-culture for another.” The official announcement is a good example of emotional flatness:

“As I’ve said, the experience of today’s digital world has us inundated with an avalanche of misinformation, affecting our ability as individuals as well as societies to think clearly and truly understand the world we live in. It’s my belief that this is a humanitarian issue and as such, it demands a multi-stakeholder response from advocacy voices, members of the media, academic researchers, and both government and civil society leaders. I’m eager to join this new Aspen commission and look forward to working on a solution-oriented approach to the information disorder crisis.”

In fact, tech culture's innovation-speak with no glance to tradition, especially human traditions of belonging, paves the way to vacuous billionaire philanthropy. Leslie characterizes it as “way more gestural and meaningless than that of the institution [Harry] has left behind.”

He offers a masterpiece of restraint by contrast to the rambling jargon-heavy statements above. Before we tear traditions up, it's worth understanding their historical roots. Deep innovation smarts go through doing the work of understanding.

The arcane protocols that Harry and Meghan found so baffling are at least rooted in historical traditions – in rituals that started out as artificial and acquired meaning over centuries.

The individuals who embody those traditions, and that history, inherit a special power – not economic or political power anymore, but the power to move and delight. When a prince or a princess walks into somebody’s school or a hospital, it means a huge amount to the children, patients, staff.

Just by representing the Royal Family, Prince Harry gave people happiness and hope. I’d be surprised if his new job enables him to have that kind of impact.

Understand the origin of a behavior, and you open the door to the physical, social, and cultural developments thereon. Until you do, the noise-to-signal ratio of your communications (and decisions) could remain quite high. And the sense of embodiment and belonging low.


Doing the work

“I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking,

what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means.

What I want and what I fear.”

Joan Didion

When everything is important, nothing is. Sense-making is a process, not a destination. The image above is high level to show the progression in awareness. I've mentioned how communication can be a diagnostic tool here.

Paying attention to the language we use to describe what is happening is a starting point. For example, when we stop talking about problems and focus on obstacles, pain, barriers, we broaden options. I realize I borrowed the word “problem” in that context.

The point I want to make is that uncertainty can be an ally. Precipitating into problem-solution mental model is so ingrained. It's a well-worn story. Emotionally, it feels pragmatic and concrete. Yet, opportunity is in the space between what we know and what we don't.

However, there is tremendous value in learning and growing while you explore hypotheses. In fact, I get hired to go with the flow—of a job description as of a project—and get paid to help you figure out where the pain and opportunity really are.

People are happy to pay for help with pain. There's evidence all around you. From buying aspirin, to hiring consultants to hack into your system. I've helped sell those services and all the ones in between.

I help by suggesting what looks promising, and what is taking you off course. I help you stay the course with suggestions on iterations and experiments to validate hypotheses. And support your growth while taking a new course of action.

Some questions I raised:

  • Sales prospecting is not working, and here's why.
  • The website is not attracting inquiries, and here's why.
  • Mission and purpose say nothing about what makes you special.
  • Here's the actual competition and the narrative they're riding.
  • People don't want to buy that, and here's why.
  • Your product is great, but your communication is off the mark.

I've even pointed out missed opportunities in job descriptions. It's all part of the small services that come with working with me. When I talk with hiring managers who are not merely going through the moves, I suggest ways to improve their odds of getting the right person for the work.

There's room to improve in everything we do. Order-taking is the lazy way out: for the giver, and the taker.


Collaboration is the way forward

People are willing to pay top rates for consultants to tell them what to do. But they overlook the intrinsic value of paying to work with someone who does the work alongside. When I work with a person or team, they always learn much more about what is possible and themselves. 

It's a side benefit. In my corporate days, I've taken disoriented and confusing situations into strong positions of authority and respect. Smart executives and founders want the truth. From experience, I've learned that it's the most direct path to working on the right things.

Successful people are willing

to do the work.

That's why they're successful. I've worked with some people who were still deciding whether they wanted to get unstuck and execute. I respect that. And our relationship was limited to well-defined projects with a beginning and an end.

My roots are both strategy and execution, corporate and agency—they're in conversation with each other. I've worked with several companies for a number of months, even years. I've noticed how the pandemic has both entrenched the stuck, and liberated the willing to do the work.

I've noted how now needs an adult culture. Collaboration thrives when discipline and the dynamics of responsibility are present alongside competence and experience. If you think this is your cup of espresso, get in touch. The first call is on me.


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