How to Sell Without Selling
A few years ago, my wife and I bought a Turkish rug from Mehmet, Istanbul's Steve Jobs of rug merchants.
If I could run my company as well he could sell, I'd be a very wealthy man.
Technically, speaking, Mehmet didn't really sell us anything. He simply created the conditions that allowed us to buy (which some people, I know, will think is really just a clever form of selling, but it wasn't.)
How did Mehmet work his magic, when all we did was sit down at his cafe to drink some coffee with no conscious desire to buy a rug?
1. He effortlessly established rapport
2. He gave us all the space we needed
3. He shared his knowledge with great feeling
4. He had beautiful rugs and knew them better than most people know themselves
5. He loved what he did
6. He had a wonderful sense of humor
7. He had kind eyes and a big heart
8. He conducted the transaction in the spirit of service
9. He asked us how much we thought the rug was worth and then sold it to us for less.
10. He knew what he was doing and he did it with the perfect blend of flair and humility.
Take a moment to think about the way that you currently sell your product or services. If it's not going quite as well as you'd like, ask yourself: "What can I learn from Mehmet the Rug Merchant?"
Deciphering the Secret Code of Tacit Knowledge
What is it that all human beings share in common other than the need for air, water, and the undeniable fact that they will answer this question in a wide variety of ways? Well, at the risk of disturbing the people likely to answer this question in a wide variety of ways, I would venture to say a deeply ingrained need to know -- a search for the kind of knowledge needed to thrive in this world.
For some of us, this knowledge-seeking impulse revolves around survival -- how to grow food, create shelter, and avoid being eaten by the nearest predator. For others, perhaps those whose survival needs are already met, this knowledge-seeking drive takes the shape of more esoteric knowing -- understanding how the universe works, for example, or how to make a killing in the world of credit default swaps . For others, with more of a spiritual bent, it might take the shape of "knowing God" or "knowing the Self."
Regardless of the knowledge-seeking realm that drives a given individual, all three groups of people share one thing in common -- and that is a thirst to understand something they don't yet understand -- an insight, know-how, or wisdom they believe will add more value to their lives.
If this impulse towards knowing is, indeed, universal, then the question we need to be asking ourselves is: "What is the most effective way to obtain the knowledge we seek?" How do we learn what we don't yet know? And, conversely, how do we know what it is we need to learn?
Traditional knowledge seekers answer this question in fairly predicable ways -- an approach that usually frames the missing knowledge as a commodity that can be secured. "Ask someone who knows", might be one person's approach. Or "read a book" or "take a class" or, more recently,"Google it" -- the common assumption being that our missing knowledge is codified somewhere and can be communicated in a way that is transferable. And while there are definitely benefits to this kind of explicit knowledge transfer, the approach is inherently flawed, given the fact that there are many "things to learn" that cannot be learned this way.
Riding a bicycle, for example, is more easily learned by observing somebody riding a bicycle and then actually getting on a bike and experimenting than it is by reading a book about bike parts or the physics of bike movement. The same holds true for learning a language or kneading dough -- neither of which can be mastered by reading a list of instructions from "experts."
Each of these activities require a transfer of tacit knowledge -- the difficult-to-describe, intuitive, experience-based wisdom from someone "in the know".
It was Michael Polanyi, in 1958, via his magnum opus, Personal Knowledge, who first introduced the concept of "tacit knowledge" to the Western world -- his attempt to communicate that "we know more than we can tell" and that this knowing requires extensive, ongoing, personal contact with people-in-the-know, respect for prelogical knowing, practice, and a healthy dose of trust.
Some years later, Japanese organizational theorist, Ikujiro Nonaka, added his take on the matter, applying the tenets of tacit knowledge to the now growing field of knowledge management.
Whereas science is "know why" and networking is "know who", tacit knowledge is "know how"-- how homo sapiens (the "wise ones") transfer what they know to others in the most elegant, effortless, and effective way possible.
These days, as technology continues to escalate at an exponential rate, markets shift, and employee turnover increases, many forward thinking companies are doing what they can to codify their knowledge, building sophisticated software and knowledge management systems to ensure the ongoing transmission of know how within their enterprise.
And while their attempts are laudable, the fact remains that the transfer of tacit knowledge -- the intuitive, hard to articulate, feeling level knowing that is often the difference, as Mark Twain once explained, between lightning and the lightning bug -- remains extremely difficult to capture.
What does all of this have to do with storytelling? A lot. Because story remains one of the most effective ways human beings have discovered to communicate the essence of what they know and value.
And while it's true that tacit knowledge can never be 100% codified, the fact remains that story is know how's closest surrogate. Indeed, story is how the great Teachers, since the beginning of time, have chosen to communicate their message. If you have any doubts, all you need to do is deconstruct your favorite holy book and you'll soon discover that story (in the form of parable, allegory, and myth) is the main ingredient.
The bottom line? If you want to increase the amount of tacit knowledge transfer in your organization, community, team, or family find a way to go beyond the two-dimensional transfer of explicit knowledge. What follows are simple ways to begin:
1. Conduct interviews with your organization's tacit knowledge keepers
2. Create opportunities for people to observe and/or apprentice with your organization's tacit knowledge keepers
3. Record, distribute, and tell organizational stories that communicate key learning, insight, and wisdom
4. Initiate more hands on action learning (where doing replaces rote learning and intellectualizing.)
"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember, from time to time, that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught." -- Oscar WildeOctober 19, 2016
How to Create a Culture of Storytelling in the Workplace
Want to bring meaningful storytelling into the workplace -- to share insight, wisdom, and tacit knowledge? Want to spark a culture of innovation, caring and collaboration? I'm your man.October 15, 2016
STORYTELLING AT WORK goes to college (and never took an SAT)!
Good news! My award-winning book, Storytelling at Work, is going to be used, in the Spring, as a textbook for a very innovative Business Communications course at The Sage Colleges in upstate New York.
The idea for this was the brainstorm of Dr. Haidy Brown, who was looking for a different way to introduce her students to the power of personal storytelling. I think Dr. Brown is a genius! The two of us will be meeting, in December, to explore various ways she can use my book as a catalyst for breakthrough in the lives of college students.
If YOU are affiliated with a college and want to explore the possibilities with us, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a dream -- that Storytelling at Work will be the "go to" textbook for business communication courses all over the world within the next two years.
My story-centric podcasts, interviews, and articles
My storytelling blog
The Kindness-At-Work Manifesto
It has recently come to my attention that some of the most loving, passionate, well-intentioned people in the world have a tendency to treat their co-workers unkindly -- especially during times of stress or on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
Consumed by their need to do something extraordinary for humanity, they forget the people they work with are human.
And so, in an effort to restore a Culture of Caring to organizations everywhere. it is my honor to present to you the Kindness-At-Work Manifesto -- 40 daily opportunities to go beyond the imperfections of your co-workers and rise to a place of uncommon goodness.
Where does it begin? With your intention to maintain your commitment to kindness any time one of your co-workers does not.
CHOOSE KINDNESS WHEN YOUR CO-WORKERS...
1. Forget to acknowledge you for a job well done
2. Take credit for something they had little to do with
3. Don't reply to your emails
4. Talk behind your back
5. Eat the last cookie
6. Withhold vital information
7. Expect you to work on the weekends
8. Forget to send you the agenda
9. Make an impossible request on you at the end of the day
10. Criticize you for not responding to their email when the item they wanted you to read was the 93rd item on the list
11. Don't let you finish a sentence
12. See the glass not as half empty, or half full, but cracked
13. Have no clue how to listen
14. Preface their regular attempts to criticize you with "Do you have a moment? I'd like to share some feedback with you."
15. Arrive late to every meeting
16. Talk to the boss about your shortcomings before airing it out with you, one-on-one
17. Expect you to cover for them every time they do a half-assed job
18. Start humming Bee Gee songs with no warning
19. Expect you to "do the math" every time your team goes out for lunch, then proceed to forget to calculate the tip and the tax when they leave too little cash for their part of the meal
20. Seek competition instead of collaboration
21. CC you on more emails than the US Tax Code has corporate loopholes
22. Think you're an idiot
23. Forget to ask how you are after your operation
24. Rarely look you in the eye
25. Make up phony excuses why they didn't return your phone call
26. Start talking about their new ringtone as if it was the Holy Grail
27. Think they know more than you do
28. Worship data
29. Talk about their old LSD experiences every time you say the word "watermelon".
30. Only express kindness when they want something from you
31. Forget to forgive you for an old mistake you made
32. Ask you to help them start a blog at 5:30 pm
33. Give you bad information regularly, then wonder why you're late with whatever it is they expect from you
34. Think they are closer to God than you because they went to a yoga class last February
35. Invite you to brainstorming sessions that are nothing more than their veiled attempts to get you to praise their pet ideas
36. Send you emails with emoticons
37. Think they're your friend because they friended you on Facebook
38. Enter into every conversation with you as if they were late for a meeting with a more important person
39. Never return the books they borrow
40. Think you're not committed because you don't work 90 hours a week
Of course, the above 40 items don't tell you how to be kind -- they only name the occasions where kindness is missing. But guess what? No one needs to teach how to be kind. You already know how to be kind.
Your next step? Choose one of the 40 opportunities above and be conscious of it all next week. Then, when one of your co-workers manifests that behavior, choose kindness.October 11, 2016
You Suck at Powerpoint!
October 09, 2016
SNEAK PREVIEW: A Bold, New Way to Do Corporate Conferences
Idea Champions is thrilled to announce it will soon be launching a bold new service to transform the way it's clients plan for, design, facilitate, and follow-up their company's conferences. Why? Three simple reasons: 1) Most corporate conferences severely under-deliver; 2) The time for incremental improvement is over; 3) The "moment of truth", for most organizations, demands that a critical mass of forward-thinking people are in the same room at the same time and prepared to go beyond the status quo. The time for chatter, chirping, and hotel chicken is over. It's time for change. And real change is not a function of pep talks, carrots, and sticks. It's a function of intention, intrinsic motivation, and the willingness to do something different -- real time. The question, or course, is HOW?
This is not a new endeavor for us. We've been designing innovative conferences since 1987 (see below for testimonials). What's different is the times we are living in. Same old, same old doesn't work any more. It's time for breakthrough! And the odds of breakthrough actually happening can be significantly increased with the right mix of intention, preparation, vision, collaboration, and the savvy facilitation of group process. That's where we come in.
Breakthrough Summits is what we are calling our new service. Just as soon as we put the finishing touches on our new website, we will post the link here for your review.
In the meantime, if you have a conference coming up within the next year or so and want to explore the possibilities with us, click this link. One of our conference mavens will get back to you ASAP. Maybe sooner.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY ABOUT OUR CONFERENCE SERVICES
"We were looking for a miracle and then we found Idea Champions."
-- Paulette Esposito, Manager, Training and Development, Champion International
"Idea Champions made our annual conference on innovation a huge success. They not only expertly facilitated the process, but ensured that our company developed a culture that will foster innovation from here on in." -- Rick Yockelson, SVP of People and Administration, Hudson Group
"Idea Champions brings an infectious enthusiasm that will win over even the most cynical person in your organization!" -- Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Universal
"What a wonderful Innovation event Idea Champions put together for us! Talk about out of the box thinking, it was out of this world!" -- Eric Birnbaum, Sr. Packaging Engineer, Kraft Foods
"Idea Champions innovation keynote at our 2014 Developer's Conference was an energetic and engaging opening to our event. Thanks to the pre-work they did with us, their themes were perfectly synchronized with the objectives of the conference -- increase innovative problem-solving and increase global knowledge sharing. Idea Champions got our people thinking and prepared to tackle the interactive objectives of the meeting. After their part of the conference, it was 'Game On!'" -- Andy Billings, VP, Profitable Creativity, Electronic Arts
"Thank you very much for your recent program presented at our Worldwide Financial Manager's Meeting. Participants found the session fun and a great learning experience." -- John Stromberg, NCR Corporation
"Thank you for waking up a company to the opportunities created through the power of a unified team." -- Richard Nugent, CEO, generalRoofing
"I was highly impressed with the role Idea Champions played at our recent offsite. They worked very diligently to understand our goals, and more importantly, thoughtfully craft a customized agenda and format to help us to attain those goals. Their tone, demeanor, and presentation style were spot on and created an open, supportive atmosphere that allowed us to maximize our brainstorming efforts. I would highly recommend Idea Champions to any company." -- Rich Battista. President, Fox National Cable Networks
"Idea Champions is creative in their approach, experienced, willing to share their expertise readily, easy to work with, and delivers exactly what they promise." -- Peter Clist, Head of Management Institute, Allianz
"Idea Champions' keynote presentation was both entertaining and informative. Over 1,030 Merck employees attended and rated the session a 4.8 out of 5.0. In just two hours, participants not only "out of the cave" and generated a wide range of innovative and powerful ideas, they also finally understood what it takes to establish a sustainable culture of innovation within our organization." -- Jim Aubele, Associate Director of Organizational Learning, MerckOctober 07, 2016
It All Began With Balls
Here's a fun, 7-minute story about Idea Champions big breakthrough soon after we started the business -- inspiration for YOU to do something different, provide your clients an EXPERIENCE, and have some fun along the way. "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."October 06, 2016
The Real Value of Confusion
Are you confused about how to proceed with your hottest project? Baffled? Bamboozled? If so, take heart! Confusion is not always a bad thing. In fact, it's often a necessary part of the creative process.
The weirdness enters when you start judging yourself for being confused. Then, instead of benefiting from this normal stage of "not knowing" you end up in endless rounds of self-talk, procrastination, and worry.
What is confusion, really?
Technically speaking, it's a state of mind in which the elements you are dealing with appear to be indiscriminately mixed, out of whack, or unable to be interpreted to your satisfaction.
Everyone from Einstein to Mickey Mouse has had this experience. It comes with the territory of trying to innovate.
Most of us, unfortunately, have a hard time acknowledging it.
"Not knowing" has become a euphemism for "ignorance". And so begins our curious routine of appearing to know and giving bogus answers -- to ourselves and others -- in a pitiful attempt to mask our confusion and maintain a sense of control, brilliance, and selfhood.
Our discomfort with not knowing prevents us from mining the value of this potentially fertile time of dislocation.
Picasso understood. "The act of creation," he said, "is first of all an act of destruction."
Great breakthroughs often emerge after times of dissolution, chaos, and confusion.
Wasn't the universe itself created out of chaos?
llya Prigogine, a leading brain researcher, describes this phenomenon as the "Theory of Dissipative Structures". Simply put, when things fall apart, they eventually reorganize themselves on a higher level (if they don't first become extinct).
And while this transition stage certainly looks and feels like confusion, what's really happening is that the old structures are giving way to the new.
Lao Tzu, one of China's most revered sages, knew all about this:
"I am a fool, oh yes, I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright.
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind."
Somehow, he knew that things needed to be a mixed up, at times, for there to be space for something new to enter his life. He knew that it was wise just to let life unfold -- and that any knee-jerk attempt to clear up what he perceived to be confusion would only leave him with his old habits, patterns, and routines.
There is no need to fight confusion. Let it be.
It's a stage we must pass through on the road to creation. Fighting confusion only makes it worse -- like trying to clean a dirty pond by poking at it with a stick.
And, besides, even while our conscious mind is telling us we're confused, our subconscious mind is processing a mile a minute to come up with some amazing solutions. In the shower. While we're exercising. Even in our dreams.
Look at it this way...
First, we refuse (to have our status quo threatened). Then, we get confused (trying to sort out all the new input). Then, we try to diffuse the process (by regressing or denying.) Eventually, we get infused (inundated by new insights). And, finally, we get fused (connecting with previously unrelated elements to form a new and unified whole).
Your next step?
Allow confusion to be what it is -- the catalyst for new and more elegant outcomes.
And if you really can't stand the confusion, here are seven simple things you can do to go beyond it:
1. Take a break from the problem at hand
2. Identify what's confusing you. Name it
3. Talk about your confusion with friends
4. Seek out missing information
5. Reframe your problem, starting with the words "How can I?"
6. Pay attention to your dreams and other clues bubbling up from your subconscious
7. Maintain a longer term perspective ("this too shall pass")
If You Want to Jump Start Innovation, This Meme Will Help
For the past 27 years I have been working "in the belly of the beast" as Che Guevera once said -- corporate America. Along the way, I have met a ton of awesome people: visionary, creative, soulful, committed, and kind people. I have also met quite a few curmudgeons, naysayers, and skeptics. Such is life. No matter where YOU are on this spectrum, this blog post is dedicated to you. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! Indeed that's where innovation begins -- in the mind. Your thoughts matter. As do your assumptions, intentions, self-talk, and mojo. Let go of doubt and hesitation. Lean into the possibilities before you! Let it rip!October 02, 2016
GUY KAWASAKI on The Top Ten Mistakes of Entrepreneurs
This is absolutely brilliant! Fantastic content, authentic delivery, entertaining, and provocative. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, this is required viewing. But even if you're not trying to raise venture capital, you can still learn a lot from Guy simply by tuning into the way he makes his pitch. And his Art of the Start is a treasure.