If you were starting communication from scratch, what would you do?

12th April 2016

If you were starting communication from scratch – in other words, there was no communication around for you to copy – how would you go about it?

For example, say you want to get something done, but need other people to help you. So you decide to have a ‘meeting’. But, since you’ve never been one before, you have to decide how best to run it. Let me guess – you’d probably think something like this:

  1. What do I want to achieve as a result of this meeting?
  2. And what’s the easiest way for me to achieve this? For instance, what are the only things I need to talk about? The only people I need to invite? And how quickly can I get it done?

But, of course, we don’t start from scratch. We copy what we see in every other meeting. Even the ones we hate. You know, the ones that are prepared like this:

We’ll put in an hour

  • Let’s invite all the people who might have an opinion…
  • …and then let’s also invite people who might not have an opinion, but might kick off if we don’t invite them
  • Let’s do a long agenda of all the things we’re going to discuss…
  • …but with no reference whatsoever to the decisions we’re looking to make as a result of discussing them
  • Then, let’s send massive pre-reads which take everyone ages to read…
  • Better still, let’s send these pre-reads at the very last minute, so people don’t have time to read them anyway
  • Even better, let’s book another meeting immediately after this one. As in, the very second one stops, the next one starts. That way, there’s no time to process what people have just heard; and no time to do/diarise the actions
  • In fact, unless I discover the art of teleportation, there is no way I can be at this second meeting on time anyway. So I won’t be. I’ll rock up late. Make no apologies. Maybe even grab a coffee as I stroll in late. Then ask everyone who got here on time to tell me what I’ve missed

I’m going out on a limb here. But, if you were designing how to run a meeting from scratch, you’d never design it that way, would you?

Here’s another example…

Looking to sell something to someone who’s keen to start exporting to Germany?

If you were starting from scratch, you’d:

  1. Start by referring to them wanting to get into Germany, and stating you could help them do so
  2. Prove you could help them export quicker/better/cheaper than all their other options
  3. And you’d end by asking when they wanted to start

But of course, it isn’t like this, is it?

  • ‘We were founded in 1922. Here’s a map of our offices. Our business was founded by the merger of X and Y. in fact, here’s a photo of our Founders. Now here’s a list of all the various things we do. And a list of various companies we work with – none of whom wanted to get into Germany incidentally…’
  • ‘If you’re still listening, this is how we’ll get you to Germany’
  • ‘But you probably won’t be. Because I put all the words I’m saying verbally onto some slides because I didn’t have time to prep properly. I needed Speaker Prompts, you see. So, I guess you’ve read them anyway’
  • ‘And I’ll end with a big summary, so I can repeat everything again. Just quicker.

Once again, if you were designing selling from scratch, you’d never do it like that.

Here’s a similar example:

Imagine you’re selling to someone. But this time you don’t know what they want to achieve. So you didn’t know they wanted to get into Germany. If you were designing selling from scratch, you’d probably:

  • Ask them what they wanted to achieve following working with you
  • They’d say “To export into Germany”
  • You’d then do everything in the previous example

But, people don’t sell like this. They don’t ask enough (any?) questions. They just talk about themselves.

One more quick example…

You want to send someone some information they’ll find useful. If you were deciding how to do this from scratch, you’d:

  1. Call them in advance, asking what info they want in there
  2. Create it for them, following their guidance
  3. Send it to them with notes explaining why you’ve sent it, and what you want them to do with it; and/or

You would never just send it “FYI”.

I could go on. But you get the point. People don’t communicate in logically sensible ways. Ways they’d communicate if they were designing communication from scratch.

No. Instead, they communicate based on their habits. In other words, they do today what they did yesterday. Even if it didn’t work yesterday.

We’re humans. So, we’re creatures of habit. And that’s a good thing. It means we can embed things, freeing-up our brains so we can learn new stuff.

But habits can also be bad. We act without thinking. The dieter who automatically picks up the cake. The reformed smoker who picks up the cigarette. The delegate on a course who says, “This will change what I do forever…after I’ve just answered these 17 emails…oh, it doesn’t seem as important anymore.”

The person who reads a Tuesday Tip?

Here’s a really simple idea…

Action point

Look at the communications you’ve got today. If you were designing them from scratch – in other words, you weren’t going to base them on what you did last week – how would you go about them? Why not try doing them differently today? You never know, if the new way works, you might get in the habit of doing it this way every time…

Want more Tuesday Tips?

Every week, Andy releases a Tuesday Tip via email and his website, let’s take you back to the archive of tips.

Back to Tuesdays Tips