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A Pitch in Time Sways Nine

Dan Pink has just released a book, To Sell is Human, that is making its way to best-seller status.  See my earlier blog-post on this – click Here to read that, and you can also read my review on Amazon if you’re interested.  There is one particularly interesting chapter that is devoted to pitches (Chapter 7).  He points out in his book, using statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that 1 in 9 people make their living directly through selling. But he makes a strong argument that the other 8 are sellers too – essentially all of us. So, all nine of us pitch and sway in the seething sea where words, thoughts and reality commingle, confound and eventually converge … or not.

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In a world where attention is an over-allocated resource, it can be quite a challenge to get people’s consciousness to switch toward you, and to stay there until you have had a chance to insert your message in the stream of scream-speed neurons hurtling down the cognitive roller-coaster they’re on.

To see or not to see … that is the question. In a swirling info-space where data, wisdom, jargon-laced theories and respectable-looking debris fly in, collide and blur in real time, people must do their best to discriminate … to make sense. But the deluge of information overwhelms all too often, and makes it a challenge to see with clarity.

Forgive them for they do not know what they do not know. But you do! And you have appointed yourself (or have had it thrust upon you) to go where too many others have gone before you, and perished. You need to find a way into the sacred cognitive spaces inhabited by those who own them; find the secret trapdoors, that surely do exist. What are the magic words that open these doors?

The Pitch.

The word epitomizes and encapsulates the very message it seeks to send in a single syllable: short, meaningful and to the point. Dictionaries provide varied meanings and origins for the word “pitch”, including one that suggests a similarity between throwing words at someone, and a baseball at a batter. I prefer to use the word’s connotation as an attribute of sound as a point of reference to color the word. In open markets where individual shoppers and vendors engage, gesticulate wildly and haggle – these have, of course, been crushed by the giant retailing machines that have largely replaced them in many countries – the human voice ruled.  You had to be heard above the din! When sheer lung power failed to combat volume with volume, pitch came to the rescue. A vendor who could tune his or her vocal chords to a different key stood out, and drew people in.

And so it is, now too. If you must persuade, if you must have someone’s ear, you must first get them to pay attention to your words. Something about how you say what you say must influence those within earshot to listen to you. It may be less about the message than about the medium, to paraphrase McLuhan.

Dan Pink says it well in his new book, To Sell is Human. Not only that, he provides a few different approaches that have been used successfully by Pixar and other companies.  This blog-post includes a graphic from his book that is a valuable artifact for anyone that needs to pitch anything. This includes anyone in IT as well as the Enterprise Architects who need to sell new visions to people used to doing things successfully in an older, but gradually fading world.

- Balaji Prasad, January 2013

New Book by Dan Pink: To Sell is Human

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I am honored to be on Dan Pink’s To Sell is Human launch team (Full Disclosure: I am not compensated for this, other than with a copy of his book, which I would have bought in any case, and a few freebies that people who preorder get).

A little bit about Dan … I attended one of Dan’s speeches in a creativity conference, and was impressed with his down-to-earth attitude. He is, of course, a well-known and well-respected author who has articulated powerful ideas in his books. A Whole New Mind is one of his works, in which he propels the idea that a more right-brained approach, than we have traditionally adopted, will be required to swim against the currents of automation, Asia and abundance in a new age: The Conceptual Age. Among other things, Dan also used to be Al Gore’s speechwriter.

In To Sell is Human, Dan will be driving another macro-idea into the mainstream – that all of us sell in one form or another, that more of us are doing so than ever before, that the nature of selling has changed as our circumstances have changed, and that we need to re-skill and re-tool our selling capabilities.  He will offer several rules, tools, tips and frameworks based on social science research and best practices from forward-looking organizations.

I am still awaiting my early copy of the book in the next few days, and will post my thoughts based on it soon.  So, if you’re interested, please watch this space over the next few days.

The book is scheduled for release on December 31, 2012. In the meantime, if you would like to preorder his book, please go to his website (http://www.danpink.com) for the links to do so. There are several freebies that you get with a preorder (you can see all of them on his website). The extras that will be attractive to people like me who are motivated to learn more and actually apply the concepts in Dan’s book are the 20-page pdf workbook and the one-hour download with exclusive interviews with Robert Cialdini of Influence fame, and with Adam Grant, a Wharton professor whose work is embedded in To Sell is Human.

My profession (IT and Enterprise Architecture) has a fair amount of selling involved, given that most of the goods that are sold are not things that you can touch and feel.  “Soft selling” and “Consultative Selling” are skills that are demanded in IT, especially of architects, the people who weave it all together and spin the yarn that moves people. I’m looking forward to my copy of the book to see what Dan has to say that can help our profession and our lives.

In the meantime, check out this two-minute clip that describes the key concepts in the book:

- Balaji Prasad, November 2012

Un-think – A Haiku

Mind trapped in mirror:
Darkness yearns for light beyond.
Fish un-thinks its pond!

- Balaji Prasad, April 2012

Enterprise Architecture is One Thing; Action is Another

Cognitive capacity is limited.  Content that can consume the capacity is unlimited.  The content can be sense-based or non-sense-based, or more often, a combination of the two.  Ultimately, what gets thought or done is a function of what gets the focus.  And what things get the focus depends on what capacity is available.

If two things can be coalesced into one thing, they may fit into the limited cognitive space that is available – something that may not be possible if they are handled individually. A OneThing.  The OneThing may provide an understanding that can be equivalent to the two things, less than the two things comprehended individually, or greater than the sum of the parts.  Again, it can also be a combination – in some respects, the OneThing can yield more insight, in some respects, less.  Of course, the OneThing does not exist; it is, but a View, into the reality that it represents.  But isn’t everything, ultimately, a view?  Thought can only point to a reality that it cannot touch with its feelers.  This is what makes views important as well as limited.  You never get the thing.  You get a view.  You can get multiple views if you desire.  Views touch the mind, just as things do.  More views touch more things, and touch more parts of the mind – a collective mind, if we are considering this in the context of an enterprise.  More views create more complexity … and confusion.  But isn’t reducing confusion the goal?  Perhaps not.  Maybe one view of the notion of confusion would show that there are different types of confusion – some that are productive, and some that are not.

In Enterprise Architecture, as with any other form of architecture that can be said to exist, Views are important.  They can bring the right kind of confusion to the people that make up the enterprise.  Multiple views, in combination, can get people to see things that they could not see before.  They can bring focus to some things, and facilitate de-focus on others.  They can enable action in some directions, and inaction in others.  If Enterprise Action is more important than Enterprise Architecture, EA would have served its purpose by illuminating, confusing and enabling.  Architecture is interesting, but action is where the action is.

Balaji Prasad, April 2012

I need to go ogle

I didn’t need to prioritize things.

But that was when I was not in search.  I would not just go ogle – because there wasn’t much to go ogle at.  I knew a few people and a few things and had even fewer resources.  My world was small.  I spent time with the people I knew and got to experience them, know them and love them.  I devoted myself to the few things that I slowly and steadily grew to love.  Love!

I didn’t need to decide to love things and people.  I didn’t call it love.  It just was. They just were. Things and people just grew on me, and into me; I grew on them, into them and fused with them.  Fusion.

Now, I go ogle.  I search.  In vain.  I know not what I search for.  I search because I can.

There are many people.  There are many things.  Maybe too many.  I go ogle.  The touch is wisp-like, impalpable.  Did I touch you or not? Please forgive me, for I don’t have the time to check.  Time!  I don’t remember speaking much about time, let alone using it as an excuse.  It is a strange feeling now – the tyranny of time weighs on me.  Constantly.

“What ever happened to our love?  I wish I understood”. I’m sounding like the Swedish band, Abba, from the 70’s, wistful, lost and confused. I didn’t particularly like the song, but it was one of those things that grew into me because it and I were pushed into the same space in the littler world we inhabited.

Now there are too many things.  Too many people.  I search.  Dazed and confused.  Confusion; it’s not fusion, anymore.

But I digress. I need to go ogle.  ‘Tis a tangled web that we have woven. I need to search; I need to untangle.  I need to find love, to find the time that I seem to have lost.  I need to prioritize.  The Web beckons like a beacon that promises a destination.  I need to go ogle.  To find the life that I have lost.

Later.

- Balaji Prasad, April 2012

Enterprise Architecture Artiquette

Enterprise Architect to The Enterprise:
If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?  The words will never show … the you I’ve come to know …”  
- Bread/David Gates – from the 70’s.

It’s not easy to be an Enterprise Artist nowadays with lots of people making lots of noise, and throwing things all over the place…and insisting on being co-artists. 

Enterprise Art has become a collective exercise.  Lament, rejoice or shrug? 

As with many things in life, the shrug can be a helpful technique to bridge the present and the future into a semblance of seamlessness.  For the present has become what it has become, as thought and action individually and collectively has evolved in enterprises of all kinds – commercial, social, and political.

ArtNot Architecture!?  What’s in a word, one may ask.  Well … quite a lot, really, when you abstract so much into one word and then expand it back into reality in many, many ways depending on the slice of reality that each individual happens to focus on.  This continual bouncing back and forth between the word and the reality it attempts to represent eventually tapers off, slinky-like, into a resigned acceptance that results in the reality being altered forever by the word – the butterfly that flapped its wings and changed the world.

When a certain kind of complexity started to overwhelm our minds, Zachman and others chose the butterfly (c1980’s) – “Architecture” – and metaphorized the IT industry.  This conceptual shoe-horning continues to have strong left-brain appeal, with its simplicity, its cognitive-bootstrapping capability and an existing framework that has been contorted to fit a different world – the world of IT Architecture.  Alas, IT itself may have been another butterfly that flapped its wings and created its own turbulence, including things like The Business, Business/IT Alignment and an entire spell-book, mystical chants and a coven that deals with all things IT.  It is dubious whether it is helpful to conceptually orphan IT from its parent, The Business, a term that IT people use to indicate Everything other than, and outside of me.  But that’s a whole new discussion for a different day. (Zachman, The Open Group and other EA denizens do consider and discuss this expansion of EA beyond IT).

Butterflies are free.  So let us propose one more, and get it to flap its wings … let us call it Art, not Architecture.  And let us consider people working together collectively, messily, drawing shapes and patterns somewhat whimsically at times, in a decidedly narcissistic pursuit of self-expression and self-interest.  This certainly has right-brain appeal, but may cause our already overworked Left considerable grief.  Can the twain meet – Does the enterprise have a Corpus Callosum that allows some coordination, synergy and asynchronous operation between our right and wrong halves?  Can we worship our engineering bent of mind and our desire for self-expression and whimsy at the same time? Maybe.

As the motley crowd of people with different interests, experiences and motivations in an enterprise work together, would it not be good to have some method underlying this madness … something that’s a bit beyond metaphorical frameworks that may mislead … Artiquette, anyone?

- Balaji Prasad, April 2012

Governance, Emergence or Govmergence?

Governance is a concept that has assumed a place of considerable prominence in the corporate world over the last few years.  Our general modus operandi seems to be to create lots of concepts that overlap, contradict and obfuscate one another, as well as the real-world phenomena that they represent.  Does this concept-fetish show up with regard to governance?  Maybe.  Leadership, Management, Control, Stewardship and other such concepts do seem to play in and around the same semantic space.  In one way or another, the general focal area for all of these words seems to be about things of value (Assets) and the need for thoughtfulness about conceiving, developing, realizing, providing, using and evolving these things of value. 

It’s about thought and it’s about action.  It’s about channelizing thought and action along some guided path toward some desired destination, some objective.

Sometimes, to understand something, it helps to consider the absence of the thing and imagine the world that would have existed in its absence.  If there were no governance, would there be pure chaos?  Would thoughts and actions disperse and vaporize, and leave little behind in their wake?  Is this how things were, when governance was not the rage? That does not seem to be so, considering the success of many organizations that hardly spoke of governance.  Either these organizations were practicing some form of governance without calling it that, or their success derived from the lack of governance.  Or maybe it was a bit of both?  Really?  Can the lack of governance actually be beneficial?  If one looks at examples of emergent behavior arising from apparently disconnected and uncoordinated activities that almost magically coalesce into a complex, rich design, it would be hard to argue against the benefits of approaches based on emergence.  On the other hand, one can easily see examples where a lack of thoughtfulness and coordination can lead to pell-mell and abuse.  Examples are not hard to come by – the recent troubles on Wall Street and at financial institutions have often been attributed to the lack of governance.

In the end, as with many other things, there is a tendency to romanticize words and concepts, and shift our collective gaze from the underlying reality, which arguably should occupy center stage.  Governance can help, emergence can help, and everything in between…which is where things in the real world often lie – in the spaces between the words.

So, in the spirit of romanticizing concepts, let us propose one more concept to muddle the mix: Govmergence.  Maybe this new word will find a sweeter spot in the reality we try to hit with our words.

- Balaji Prasad, April 2012

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