Don’t Obsess Over The Answer. Obsess Over The Question.

There are plenty of big questions out there in the universe

We want results. And we want them yesterday!

Give me answers.

I want solutions. Not problems.

It’s often the case that we obsess over the answer, the final outcome, the end result. But if we neglect the question, the answer can be rendered irrelevant. And the process of arriving at the solution becomes inefficient and wasteful.

As mentioned in a previous post (Slow Down! Why busy people need to stop and disconnect) the first step is to gain some perspective and objectivity.

Breathe deeply and slow things down. We are all very busy and this can affect our ability to distinguish the wood from the trees.

With this done, it’s time to change the obsession.

The Answer Is In The Question

Knowing how to phrase a question correctly is key to gaining a meaningful solution to the problem.

This is what Adam Morgan and Mark Barden call “A Propelling Question” in their book A Beautiful Constraint.

“A propelling question is one that has both a bold ambition and a significant constraint linked together”

It forces you to think and behave in a different way.

The Audi R10 TDI was the answer to a propelling question

(Image courtesy of http://www.evo.co.uk/audi/7921/audi-diesel-for-le-mans)

Morgan and Barden offer several examples of propelling questions that harness the constraint to the ambition, ensuring the constraint drives the solution:

  • How do we win the race with a car that is no faster than anyone else’s? (Audi, Le Mans 2006)
  • How do we build a well-designed, durable table for five euros? (IKEA)

In this way, questions that exhibit a bold ambition linked to a limiting factor, or constraint, will yield better answers.

The Power Of Why

My two-year old son understands the Power Of Why all too well.

He is a master.

There isn’t a statement or utterance that isn’t met with an instant “why?” in our house.

This will inevitably lead to an explanation. Followed by another “why?” And some further explanation. Then yet another “why?” In a seemingly endless sequence in search of the truth (usually ending in exasperation or throwing the question back at him: “why do you think?” – that’s CIA-level parenting for you).

But there’s a wisdom in this transaction.

As annoying as it can be, it is his way of trying to understand things better. He’s not satisfied with the quick, generic response to his question. He wants to know the detail.

“Why” is the way to a clearer answer.

Especially once you’ve found an initial solution.

Ask yourself, why you should accept it? Or, why it worked? Even, why you arrived at that answer and not a different one?

Do this and your results will improve.

Stretch And Challenge

The grid below is used widely in education.

The language you use in your questions is critical

It teaches the vocabulary of inquiry and how to ask good questions (for both teachers and students).

As you can see, “Why” questions (along with “How”) feature in the higher order Analytical and Application Synthesis sections of the grid.

When coupled together with the verbs across the top of the grid, these form powerful questions that really stretch and challenge your thinking. Inevitably leading you to a better answer.

It’s Ok Not To Have All The Answers

So long as you’re asking the right questions.

Get the question right, and you open the door to an intricate thought process.

You will arrive at the solution. There will be a final outcome. And you will gain results.

But the journey, the twists and turns, the developing sequence of questions that you use to arrive at the answer, may end up being more beneficial and enlightening.

Why?

How?

Over to you.

 

Gareth

 

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Sharing Is Caring And Nothing Beats Retweets. How One Minute Briefs Adds Value To Content.

Sharing is caring

Sharing interesting articles, videos, photos, designs even memes is a fundamental digital content transaction we participate in daily. Just scroll through your Facebook news feed. Or Twitter. LinkedIn.

But why bother sharing?

Like. You know. Whatever.

Liking a post is great.

It shows that… You like the post.

And whilst that’s fine, it doesn’t really add any value. It doesn’t really help the content’s creator. At least, not in the same way sharing does.

Sure, a ‘like’ shows appreciation. It lets people know that you enjoyed their content.

But did you really?

Sharing A Post Adds Exponential Value.

Unfortunately, liking posts doesn’t really help the original publisher. It doesn’t move the content along. All it does is stamp a little heart or a thumbs-up on it.

And surely, if you really enjoyed the post, wouldn’t you want others to enjoy it too?

That’s why sharing or retweeting content is infinitely better.

By sharing a post you’re not only giving it your seal of approval, you’re vouching for it.

When you retweet or re-post something, you are effectively sifting through all the content traffic and cherry-picking the interesting bits for the rest of your network to see.

You’ve determined it has value. It is of interest. And it is worth people’s time and attention.

Passing on a piece of content means that you believe the rest of your close network will appreciate it too. And, because it came from you, they are more likely to trust it and engage with it. After all, you are infinitely more trustworthy than an anonymous source of content. Right?

You share it. Then someone else shares it. And all of a sudden the readership has multiplied.

Reach (the number of people who see the content). Impressions (the number of times the content is displayed). Engagement (the number of interactions people have with the content).

This is how retweets and shares add exponential value.

You Are An “Influencer”

This is a term that gets bandied about a lot.

But what does it actually mean?

Simply put, influencer marketing uses the popularity of influential people and their extended network to deliver a message to their followers. Individuals, who may have an influence over potential buyers within a target market, are identified and used to promote a product.

Sharing.

That makes YOU an influencer.

Widening The Net

That’s why sharing content is so important.

One Minute Briefs encourages retweets for this very reason. It expands the audience for the content creator.

One Minute Briefs Logo

If you like an ad created in response to a brief, retweet it.

You’ll gain the creator greater exposure. You’re adding value to their work and ideas. And this is a whole lot more appreciative than just a ‘like’.

So next time you read or see something that you really like and wish to show your appreciation…

Share.

Retweet.

You are influential.

We all are.

 

Gareth

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Dink Thifferently: Rules are only the limit of someone else’s imagination.

Blue shoe. Yellow shoe. Break the rules. Live a life without limits.

There’s a lot we can learn about creative problem solving from pioneers like Carol Dweck, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Avis. They know how to push beyond the limits of what is believed possible.

No. No Limits.

For every time someone has said “it can’t be done” there’s always been someone else thinking “how can I do it?”

If history teaches us anything, it is that things that were once believed to be impossible, can be achieved.

Just watch any science fiction TV show from the 60s!

Pioneers are those who shun “can’t” and embrace “can’t yet”. They embrace challenges. Persist in the face of setbacks. Acknowledge that effort leads to mastery. Learn from criticism. Find lessons in the success of others.

In short, they don’t put a limit on what they can achieve.

Or, as Carol Dweck explains, they have a Growth Mindset.

The difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset

Finding Lessons In The Success Of Others

When something is considered to be unreachable, it becomes the benchmark.

For some, it’s the limit.

For others, it’s a glass ceiling waiting to be shattered.

This is especially relevant to the three rule breakers below. They defied the norm successfully. They didn’t accept limitations. Instead, they transformed the sense of what was possible.

Afford A Ford

These days it’s hard to imagine a world without automation.

When Ford started building cars he did it in exactly the same way that every other car manufacturer did. One at a time.

This was the norm.

The car was built from the ground up by a team of mechanics. They would have to source parts, then return to the vehicle in order to assemble it.

Not a very efficient process. And very expensive.

Perfecting the assembly line concept turned the process on its head. Ford changed the game.

Henry Ford's legendary Mode T

(Image courtesy of https://hymanltd.com/vehicles/6028-1921-ford-model-t-center-door-sedan/)

He wanted to mass-produce affordable vehicles. Increase efficiency and reduce costs. He wanted to push beyond the limits of what convention dictated at the time.

Instead of having mechanics going back and forth to fetch parts, Ford had the parts brought to the mechanics at appointed stations. The chassis was then moved between each station, stopping along the way to have parts fitted, until the car was completed. (https://www.ford.co.uk/experience-ford/history-and-heritage#assemblyline)

Ford was able to reduce the assembly time of a Model T from twelve and a half hours to under six.

When everyone else was limited to building one car at a time, Ford found a way to push beyond what was conventionally accepted.

Cost-efficient, affordable vehicles for the masses became a reality.

A small change in thinking, made a big difference.

White Headphones

Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod on 23rd October 2001. A revolutionary device. It pushed beyond the limits of the portable audio technology available at the time.

An entire music library that fit inside your pocket!

This was the coolest, sleekest and most exciting new tech accessory ever invented. Everybody wanted one. And everybody who had one, wanted everyone else to know it.

But there was a problem.

It couldn’t be seen if it was in your pocket!

So, how would people be able to show off this cool new music device?

Before the iPod, headphone cables were black.

No one had ever had a reason to make them a different colour.

Want stand out from the crowd?

Go from black to white.

“As psychologists and business experts have acknowledged since iPod’s release, the decision to make its earbuds all-white sent Apple’s cache as an uber-cool company into the stratosphere.” (http://uk.businessinsider.com/why-are-apple-headphones-white-2016-5?r=US&IR=T)

From Second Best, To Second Is Best.

No one ever remembers who came second in a race. (Apart from the person who came second.)

That all changed in 1962.

Advertising agency DDB helped Avis turn being ‘second best’ into a strength.

Hertz had historically dominated the American car rental market. DDB turned this to Avis’ advantage. They devised a campaign celebrating the company’s customer service. Because “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.”

Avis' famous disruptive "We try harder" campaign by DDB

“Within a year, Avis went from losing $3.2 million to earning $1.2 million[…] From 1963 to 1966, as Hertz ignored the Avis campaign, the market-share percentage gap between the two brands shrunk from 61–29 to 49–36. Terrified Hertz executives projected that by 1968 Avis might need a new ad campaign—because it would no longer be No. 2.”

(http://www.slate.com/articles/business/rivalries/2013/08/hertz_vs_avis_advertising_wars_how_an_ad_firm_made_a_virtue_out_of_second.html)

Suddenly, being the best wasn’t as good as being second best.

That’s how you tear up the rulebook!

Sometimes,  you need to openly acknowledge your limitations. It might just be the kind of thinking that sets you apart from everyone else.

Break Through The Glass Ceiling

Rules and perceived limits can act as psychological barriers.

They can make something seem daunting and unreachable. However, changing your mindset can transform a limiting factor into a target for success.

Conventional wisdom is the general and unquestioning acceptance of the limitations of someone else’s capacity and imagination.

Don’t be defined by what someone else said can or can’t be done.

Break the rules.

Embrace challenges.

Persist in the face of setbacks.

Acknowledge that effort leads to mastery.

Learn from criticism.

Find lessons in the success of others.

Dink Thifferently.

 

Gareth

 

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The Alphabet Writing Challenge (It’s Not As Easy As It Sounds!)

The alphabet is there to be played with.

A while back I started setting myself short writing challenges. By doing so, I hoped to inject some fun into my blog whilst also providing ideas for anyone whose writing might be stagnating.

Creative writing should be just that: creative.

Doing something a little bit different can shake things up and help break you out of any rut you may find yourself in.

Experimenting and playing with language by imposing constraints and limitations means you have to take time to think imaginatively in order to find a solution. Find ways to focus your thinking and force yourself to pay attention to your craft. Give yourself time to play with written forms and you’ll soon see the benefits.

Here’s an example.

In this post I have set myself the alphabet writing challenge. Just in case you hadn’t noticed thus far, having started this post with the letter ‘a’, I have continued every subsequent sentence with the proceeding letter of the alphabet. Knitting it all together is where the creative wordplay comes into its own.

Let’s consider the uses for an exercise like the alphabet writing challenge.

Most would agree that, on the face of it, this is little more than a contrived piece of writing that serves no obvious purpose.

Nevertheless, by restricting the way you start your sentences in order to structure your writing, however contrived it may seem, demands creative thinking and considerable attention to detail.

Originally I set out to write twenty-six paragraphs, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, but I didn’t think this would amount to much of a challenge. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in changing my parameters down to twenty-six sentences, but there you go.

Quick as you like, my change of approach made writing this post infinitely more challenging – a problem with an ambitious outcome bound by a significant constraint.

Really, when compared to the other challenges I’ve set myself in the past, this one has required the most thought and creativity. Some letters of the alphabet do not naturally lend themselves to a starting berth in a sentence.

This is when you need to get really creative.

Up until this point it hasn’t been too bad. Varying sentence structures has been essential. When you get to the end of the alphabet though, it gets pretty tough.

Xylographs are engravings on wood, apparently.

Yes, that last sentence was extremely contrived, but this approach to writing is a great way to expand your vocabulary, and it’s a necessary evil if you are to stick to the form (just don’t do it too often, otherwise you risk entering the realms of nonsense).

Zenith achieved!

26 sentences, each beginning with consecutive letters of the alphabet. Not as easy as I first thought. But an enjoyable lexical challenge nonetheless.

Give it a go.

Share your efforts with me in the comments section below, or via my social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).

Happy writings!

 

Gareth

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Success: What Does It Look Like And How Can You Be Sure When You’ve Achieved It?

Success: go get it! Written in chalk on a blackboard

Success is such a subjective term. Personal. Context-dependent. Relative.

I was asked recently by a student if I could write something on how to be successful.

This got me thinking.

Success means different things to different people.

What you might think is a success may be something rather ordinary for someone else.

For example: my two-year old son sees peeing in the toilet as a success. Frankly, who doesn’t! But to those of us who have mastered the art of peeing in the toilet, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal (unless you’ve had a few).

So how do you become successful, when success is variable? Subjective? Personal?

I started working backwards.

What are the steps taken towards success?

If you are to be successful you need something specific to aim for. A goal. A target. Something that you aren’t doing now. Something that you can’t do now. Yet!

Man on a mountain top taking in the view.

Make it relevant. There has to be a reason behind your target. A purpose. Something linked to what you already do. Or something that will develop you in another direction and broaden your skillset. Or something that will bring your personal satisfaction. Whatever it is. Make it relevant. You’ll be more inclined to work on it if you see a value and purpose in what you are doing.

Of course, it’s very easy to set yourself the target of turning over £1m a year within the next five years. And for some that is an achievable and realistic goal. But not so much if you’ve just started your A-levels.

And therein lies the crux. Whatever you want to be successful at has to be within the realms of reality. It has to be achievable. By all means be aspirational. But don’t be a fantasist. If you want to be successful, you need to give yourself a chance to succeed. A target that is unrealistic and unachievable is unworkable. Set the bar too high and you’ll end up demoralised, dissatisfied and dejected. Set the bar too low and there’s little value in your success.

Targets need to be in the Goldilocks Zone. Just right.

You need to be able to measure or quantify what success will look like. It makes it easier to judge how far you’ve progressed and whether or not you have ultimately achieved what you set out to do. Say, for instance, being able to complete 50 push-ups without stopping. Or write a blog post every week (yours truly).

These are easily quantifiable targets that you can use to measure your level of success.

Without this, how will you know if you’ve been successful?

How do you know when you’ve achieved?

The next logical step is to decide how long you think it should take you to reach your target. Achieve your goal. Be successful.

Give yourself a manageable timeframe within which to hit your target. As you progress you may find you need to adjust this. You may take less time. Or you may need more time. However, don’t get caught in the trap of procrastinating. Adding time and doing nothing. Try to be strict with yourself and keep to your original timeframe. Making it realistic from the off means that you give yourself a fighting chance to succeed at whatever your goal is.

Once you know your aim and how long you want to take to get there decide on the actions you need to take during the allocated timeframe to get you to the end product. What are the steps? Small increments that you can make on a regular basis to advance you towards success? What little changes can you make? Something that won’t have an immediate big impact on your progress or your current way of life, but if formulated into a routine, if made into a habit, will, over time become second nature. Something you can build upon. The foundations of your success.

No matter what the end product. No matter what the means you go through to achieve it. The process remains the same for anyone wishing to be successful. 

So what’s the secret to success? How do you become successful? 

Be SMART.

Give yourself specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-constrained goals. 

This is the formula. Stick with it.

Success will follow.

Gareth

 

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