Can you describe the process in plain language?

To test whether you really know something, try to explain it to someone with no knowledge of the process at all. If you can explain it to a 6th grader, you’ve got it down.

Some people pride themselves on the ability to explain things to other experts and do not care to explain it to anyone else. They believe that the details are best left out. Why bother simplifying something that everyone else already understands?

Here’s the thing, people who think they understand things often have fundamental knowledge gaps. This gap may not actually be a problem day-to-day. The person likely doesn’t come to a situation where it matters. However, if their explanation is built around fitting this gap in, there may be trickle-down issues.

Take finance systems as an example. Almost no one understands how Wall Street works. Do you really understand what makes a stock price go up or down? How many people does it take to make it happen? What impact do shorts and longs have on the price? To most people, simply understanding that “the Market” dictates the price is enough. But if you were asked to model it, you better know how “the Market” actually works.

Describing a process in plain language forces you to confront the details. “The Market” is not plain language, it is shorthand for a very complicated series of activities. A process built around “The Market” can very easily be shown to be incomplete.

I come across issues all the time caused by experts who think they understand something but actually have a very fundamental gap in their knowledge. Never assume that experts actually get everything, that’s one of those process gaps.


Inspiration is the spontaneous act of creativity

I go through the world looking for inspiration every single day. I have developed a strong trust in my subconscious mind’s ability to process information for me. When the task is complete, it latches onto something around me as a way of letting me know it is done. It may be the way a particular shade of green is married up to an orange in a logo. It could be something profound in how the light is flowing between leaves in the trees. It could be something mundane such as noticing how my chair feels more comfortable suddenly.

Inspiration is simply the mind connecting to something. Whatever it is, the mind uses this something to spit out the idea it has been processing.

Creativity is the soul of everything we do. To move up in the world, you must be creative. That’s not to mean you must be artistic (although I equate the two closely). Creativity in this sense means to think differently. It’s the putting together of ideas and concepts in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Truly inspired individuals cause that inspiration to flow to others. Usually, this is because they are particularly effective communicators. They make it clear they have something to share and then articulate it in a way that the idea becomes owned by those listening.

Let the world talk to you. Said another way, listen to yourself when you are trying to get your own attention.

Understanding nuance is an important part of the education process.

An interesting fact of life is that the more experienced you get, the less facts matter.

That’s not to say that math, science, literature, philosophy and other subjects aren’t important. In fact, they are table stakes for most things that you would want to succeed at. Simply knowing things becomes not as important because everyone knows them.

After that point, nuance is the defining factor in success. Can you identify the correct time to lean on philosophy instead of math? Can you move someone stuck on a question of science by pointing them in a literary direction? Are you able to make your argument successfully to someone who thinks entirely differently than you do?

Fact is knowing which argument to make. Nuance is know how to make the argument given all the other variables involved.

Communication. It’s not hard. It’s everything.

Back to one of my favorite topics today, communication. It’s the center of everything. It’s actually even more important than that in real estate. There’s nothing worse than implementing some amazing new office only to learn the business had decided to double their headcount and they won’t fit. Communication.

Sadly, one of the main reasons that communication breaks down is “too much work.” When people get busy they don’t want to “waste time in meetings” or “spend all day answering emails” or “stop and chat on the phone.” Said another way: they get too busy to communicate.

I’ll be the first to argue that many meetings are a waste of time. Some days it feels like many meetings are primarily a way for some people to appear busy without achieving anything at all. Other meetings feel like they are ripe with potential to achieve great outcomes only to be foiled by poor planning. Communication without thought is often worse than no communication at all. At least with no communication people may feel compelled to use their best judgment.

Communicating is the core component to every job. You need to be able to relay the thoughts in your head. You need to be able to convey the needs of your team. You need to be able to receive the current state of your partners. You need to be open to understanding your vendors. You need to be able to participate in group decisions.

On the surface, communication isn’t hard. But somehow most people fail at successful communication much of the time. Even successful communicators sometimes forget what to do.

The emotional/rational journey caused by change.

Responses to change occur on a spectrum between emotional and rational. Based on how much experience they have with the particular type of change they are being faced with, they may respond out of fear or out of inquiry.

During the course of any change event, people will change their response type as they learn more. Sometimes they will move from rational to emotional because they suddenly realize there may actually be an impact to their job. Other times (and hopefully usually) they move from emotional to rational as they realize there will be less impact to them than they originally expected.

Knowing where your audience is on this spectrum will allow you to better communicate with them. Never share messages targeted at managing emotion at a rational audience. They will simply see a message that implies they should be concerned and start to wonder why they aren’t. Similarly, rational messages targeting an emotional audience will be completely ignored because it isn’t addressing the concerns that people are feeling.

Communications are the key to successful project outcomes. Effective communications start from understanding not just the audience but the audience’s state of mind. When both components are brought together, you will be in a much better position to drive your change project to a successful conclusion.

Just because you haven’t been told the plan does not mean that there is no plan

Good communications are hard to do. Over communicating can take up all your time. Under communicating can leave your team in confusion.

Figuring out the right line for their team is a manager’s primary job. People need information in order to make good decisions but they also don’t usually need incomplete, possibly wrong or sensitive information.

It is easy as a subordinate to take a lack of information to mean there isn’t a plan. Sometimes there isn’t a plan and you find out only too late. Usually, there is a plan and good reasons for limited information getting out until ready.