The most valuable Tweet in history

Or - Could this be the Bitcoin your mother uses?

So a new crypto-currency, conceived as a joke last Christmastime by a guy in Australia based on a silly internet meme from 2013 is becoming the way people give friendly, real-money tips to each other online, managed to send the Jamaican bobsled team to Sochi, will have a fully funded Nascar drive at Taladega sporting their doggy logo, has provided clean drinking water to people in need and just may be one more reason for the big banks to be worried about their place in the world.

Wait - what?

But back way up for a sec. Let me start from the beginning.

Yesterday, someone in the office lumped me in with "older people". It was traumatic. And made worse by the fact that once she'd realised what she'd done, she did the 'oh' face and covered her mouth while making "I'm sorry" eyes.

She was talking about funky, app-driven customer experience concepts for self-service in restaurants, and whether they could be successfully applied to fine dining as well as to lower-end and fast food options, and came out with a line about how "older people tend to prefer traditional service" while gesturing to me! ME! (And I'm only six years older than she is, it turns out. Better start moisturising, I suppose.)

But I got my own back. As I was writing this, I asked her what she knew about crypto-currencies. Know what her answer was?

"What are those?"

Yeah. That's right. So I got to edu-macate the little "you old dudes wouldn't understand all this modern app-related stuff" smuglet with the little snippets of info from that opening paragraph. Felt great.

That said, I'm no expert. Far from it. In fact, about two weeks ago, my answer would have been the same as hers. I'd be the poster-boy old dude (and representative of the current state of the mass market) when it comes to crypto currencies. But not so much anymore, and I think this may be important.

What IS a crypto-currency?
When I first heard about this, I barely knew anything about Bitcoin. I had a vague idea that there is something I’m really meant to be doing or installing on my computer to try and make myself some online-money-Bitcoin-thingos by using computer power to crack codes that other people aren’t doing, so I can “mine” myself some and be rich when Bitcoin suddenly “makes it big”? But also, I mean, isn’t it somehow dodgy? Don’t you hear about terrorists being vaguely involved with it? Or money laundering? Or people buying cocaine on the internet with it? But I also hear it’s meant to be all good for privacy, which is supposed to be everybody’s Digital New Year’s resolution, right? But what IS it? How do you get it, store it, and get it out of the computer and turn it into real money? 

Bitcoin lasted about three minutes in my life before I stuck it in the “too hard, leave it to the nerds” basket. I figured I’d revisit it when it took its next evolutionary step towards accessibility.

So it turns out Bitcoin isn’t alone though. There are more crypto-currencies. Quite a lot more, in fact.
Here’s a handy chart so you can see them ranked by founding date, growth over the last week, exchange rate and total available.

And one of them - the one I mentioned opening this post got founded a little while ago….

Your face on the money?
So what does that mean, ‘founding a currency’ anyway? How does a person found a currency, and how does it go from some spotty faced founders’ idea into something that’s actually doing (increasing amounts of) serious good around the world? Well to know that, it helps to know a tiny bit (just a tiny bit I promise) about how these crypto currencies work. And I promise it’ll be in layman’s terms. Because I don’t understand any of the rest of it. (And if anyone who does understand it better reads this, please be kind in the comments with the stuff I inevitably stuff up.)

Crypto currencies are the essence of a fiat currency. When I was doing my economics degree, one of the very first things they teach you (aside from the x-shaped supply and demand curve) is that most modern currencies are fiat currencies, which essentially means that they’re not based on anything tangible. They're valuable only because people believe they’re valuable. (As opposed to being backed by a Gold Standard, or being made out of something intrinsically valuable like gold or any other precious metal.) Fiat currencies are based on the system perpetuating itself - on the faith that it will. I can give you a little bit of paper with an S on it with two lines through it, and you’re happy to trade that to me for some food, because you believe the next person will take that paper in turn as an exchange for whatever fun thing it is they have that you want. As long as the faith stays alive, the system stays alive, and the currency lives.

I think these bills are almost dry...

Thing is, you want to know that my little bit of paper is a real one, and not one I made on my colour photocopier in the basement. So, we centralise production of our currency - like with a country’s central bank - and apply security features to it, like really fancy swirly patterns that are hard to print at home, or embossing, or special paper, or holograms, or embedded watermarks, or little strips of plastic or ink dots that glow under ultraviolet light. These features make the currency difficult to fake. The difficulty increases the trust that it's real, this trust helps the system stay alive, and when the system stays alive, the currency stays alive.

Well, with crypto currencies, this idea that if the system stays alive, the currency stays alive is even more literal. Like all modern money, they're numbers in a computer system. But the security features are a little bit different. For a start, the currency is decentralised. That means that it doesn’t require a central bank to issue it or to make monetary policy decisions around how much of it is around. And since a crypto-currency is something anyone can launch, (you don’t need a ‘money license’ for it - if you did, it would be centralised again), it still needs to be secure. It does this by behaving a little bit like the DNA on a cell.

You know how every cell in your body has in its DNA, the blueprints for building your whole body again? Well these crypto currencies are a little bit like that. Instead of DNA, they carry a bit of code on them called a ‘block chain’. That chain carries with it all the parameters of the currency as well as a kind of record of all the transactions that currency has been through. And they constantly update, so they’re all current. All the money knows all about all the money in the system. And it’s updated by people who have decided to point big, expensive, powerful computers called ‘ miners’ at the challenge of updating all this crypto-code. As you can imagine, after a while, these block chains get pretty big. And you’d be right. In fact, some people have modelled what would happen if crypto currencies ever scaled up to the level of say, a VISA (which does thousands of transactions per second globally) to find out if the size of the growing block chains would outstrip the expected growth in computing power. Apparently, there’s a good reason to be concerned. Could ultimately spell the end of this first iteration of crypto currencies like Bitcoin and its ilk. Or, it could simply precipitate the next stage in decentralised digital currency’s evolution. But never mind. I’m treading dangerously close to geeky technical territory I've no business commenting on.

The point is, these coins survive for the same reason any other fiat currency does: There’s a limited number of them, (that parameter is set in the original ‘DNA’ algorithm), they’ve got enough security features to be trustworthy (the DNA is replicated and updated by all the coins, so nobody can “CTRL-C, CTRL-V-V-V some to triple their holdings… The new copies won’t be reflected in the rest of the economy’s ‘DNA’, and they’ll be rejected), Finally, as long as everybody believes the currency will survive, and they’re willing to take it in exchange for goods, it survives. If the system survives, the currency stays alive. And in this case, the survival of every digital currency depends on the currency ‘miners’ carrying on their work mining - updating all the transactions, so the existing coins stay current. They get rewarded for this - in digital coin - at a predetermined rate, and so the economy can develop.

SO! Anyone can make a currency, and many do. You could make one immediately after reading this article. I could make one called STEWARTCOIN, put a picture of my face on it, decree that there would only ever be 1 Trillion STEWARTCOIN in existance and people would be welcome to point their block-chain-updating mining computers at them in order to corner the STEWARTCOIN market. But these new currencies die almost instantly, because nobody believes they have any staying power, so they don’t mine it, which means the coin can’t work, so it dies. Belief and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fiat currency.
So all is as it should be.

The Dogecoin
Now, this brings us to one particular example of one of those currencies, and how it went from some Australian dude’s funny joke, to being kind of a force for good, and maybe one of the ingredients that will create the crypto currency tipping point to the mainstream.

Picture this. it’s December 2013 and this guy Jackson Palmer in Australia - a marketing guy at Adobe - is laughing away at Doge - the 2013 Meme of the year winning’s mascot.

Here's a few examples from 

(Don't ask me - apparently it's hilarious. Guess I AM old...)

Anyway, he tweets:

"I'm investing in Dogecoin - the next big thing."

And after some Twitter-couragement from a few folks, he ended up buying and putting up a picture of the Doge dog as a splash screen.

Around the world in Oregon, a programmer named Billy Markus used code inspired by another digital currency (Luckycoin, which in turn is based on ANOTHER digital currency called Litecoin) and sets up Dogecoin as a real thing. He's also just finished watching Austin Powers, and he and Palmer decide it would be funny to set the total amount of available Dogecoin at "One hundred Billion coins" (cue little finger to mouth...).

The currency was officially released December 8 2013 with the following satirical Reddit thread:

“Dogecoin – very currency – many coin – wow – v1.1 Released.”

And then the dude went to sleep. Totally ready to get up the next day, head off to his job in marketing at Adobe, and probably never give his Dogecoin joke much more thought. Because of course, it would just peter out, and fade away like the satirical statement it was meant to be. But no. overnight, Reddit, an online community and home to his original post was blowing up with interest, and people were mining Dogecoins into existence.

The internet's tipping currency...
Now, Dogecoin isn't Bitcoin, but it's worth something. The way Palmer puts it: "if Bitcoin is your salary and the money you use to pay your mortgage and pay for your retirement, Bitcoin is like the change from your pocket that you stick in that jar on your dresser. It's not worth a lot, but it adds up."

And apparently it does. People have put Dogecoin to good use. First, it has apparently become the 'tipping'currency on the internet. Someone creates or passes on a link you really liked? instead of just giving them a useless "Like" (or an even more useless "Plus 1"), you can now toss them a few coins - in Dogecoin. (Note from me: I've never had this happen, but apparently it does. They say the online community is very strong. If you get yourself a Dogecoin wallet and make your posts known to the Dogecoin using community, apparently they're all very generous and inclusive. I'm going to link to this very article in the Reddit sub group for Dogecoin ( ) and see if anything happens. I'll report back on the community's response in the comments.)

...and good deeds currency...
And this community is doing some cracking things. In addition to providing a sense of gratification with their tips for good writing and curation, and in addition to (very occasionally) allowing you to buy coffee (if you live in San Francisco), they've also spontaneously formed the Dogecoin Foundation to make real things the real world. Last year they cottoned on to the fact that that old favourite group - the Jamaican bobsled team had managed to pull together a team for the Winter Olympics, but were short of the funding they needed to go compete. The Dogecoin Foundation called upon its donors and BOOM! Jamaica was at Sochi. I don't quite get the mechanics yet of how they translate Dogecoin activity into real-world action (and spendable cash), but they do it. They've managed to sponsor a Nascar race car in the US, they ran a competition for the Dogecoin symbol that would appear on the hood, got it produced, and the car raced at Taladega. 
More materially, they've also managed to do some more meaningful good, and they've funded the digging of a handful of wells in developing countries to provide clean drinking water with Charity water, including, according to Wikipedia, an $11,000 donation (14million Dogecoin at the time) in "what the news media dubbed "the most valuable tweet in history""
Could this start a tipping point to adoption by the Early Majority?
This friendly, irreverent, yet seriously do-gooding is just the shot in the arm that crypto currencies need to get the attention of the most important group of people to the success of crypto currencies - those of us just out of the know. I (and my old ilk) represent the next big segment required for these things to work. A non-geek (and when I say 'geek' I mean it with affectionate reverence, not derision), but vaguely tech-savvy person who represents the beach head on the big cohort. People like me are they type who would be willing to act as an early adopter for something a little out there and techy cool, but I'm also far enough on the safe side - not so out there or on the bleeding tech edge, that the more conservative members of the BIG FAT MAJORITY are more willing to use me as a reference case than they would be someone they viewed as a pure tech enthusiast. Get me and my kind to learn about / care about a crypto currency, and they're that much closer to mass adoption. And this accessible, friendly do-gooding Dogecoin is just the kind of thing that may make that happen.

Which would be an interesting thing, and kind of blows my mind.

It's already kind of starting - Yahoo Finance recently added Bitcoin, and there's a petition for Dogecoin to be included too.
Apple this week also lifted its ban on crypto-currency supporting digital wallet apps. It's begun.

Having looked into it a bit now, do I believe Bitcoin and Dogecoin will necessarily be the defacto global currencies in 10-20 years? Probably not (a bit more on this later), but do I think a decentralised fiat currency of some kind will be in place. You bet I do. In fact, in 20-30 years, it'll probably be a "duh!" kind of an obvious byproduct (benefit?) of the global connectedness we're building. For that to happen, it'll have to become a lot more user friendly. I mean - I'm writing about it and I don't even really know how I'm goign to "get some Dogecoin" (But I intend to figure it out). For help, Google tells me to go to, where there's an appropriately irreverent tutorial.

(Apparently this is my "receiving" address: DT8oXk7PHRRCzSkxmxLVJCzkbUjifsuEcR)

I think. It's all a bit tricky to the novice. But in the long run, usability isn't going to be much of a hurdle. This is what entrepreneurs DO. They say inventors rarely get the credit or the riches. Who invented the TV? Who invented the Hard Drive? Who invented the microchip? Betcha don't know. But the mash-up artists who innovate off these ideas - who jam them together and build cool stuff with a customer's perspective in mind are the ones hailed as heros. SJ is probably the current granddaddy of them all.

What might it mean to a writer in rural China?
So the world has invented decentralised crypto currencies, and somebody will eventually make them user-friendly. Then what? What will this do to the disparity that currently exists across geographies? Particularly for information work? If I write a clever article or render an even more valuable digital service, I may get paid in Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Stewartcoin or whatever. That article I write, or that service I perform may score me say 20 Doge from the Doge-ers around the world. And 20 Doge may be enough to buy me a coffee in Australia. (For instance. I have no idea of its actual value today.). Well, whatever the absolute Dogecoin price, coffee in Australia is worth (or costs, that is) a hell of a lot more than a coffee in rural China. Or Bangladesh. Maybe 200 times more. What happens if my Bangladeshi equivalent writes the same article, or performs the same digital service, and gets the same 20 Doge? His work just became like 200times more valuable to him that mine was to me. What got me a coffee might get him three meals worth of food. How cool is that? Could a decentralised, globally available, government-independent, cost-of-living-blind currency be one of the forces that goes some way to equalising standard of living in the second or third worlds?

Now this is dangerous musing off the top of my head, and there will no doubt be those who have given this considerably more thought than me and who coudl expose my reasoning weakness with a swift flick of the pen (worth +50 Doge?), but whatever happens, it's going to be cool. I have the sense that this could be one of the more important byproducts of the internet - indeed, maybe even the most important thing to happen to global economics since the internet.
But that's probably enough from me for now.

I'm going to shut my laptop, hang out my tip jar and see what happens....

(This is my tip jar.... I think)

Presenting at Customer Experience Design 2013

This week, representing SMS Management & Technology, I presented at the Customer Experience Design 2013 conference in Darling Harbour, in Sydney Australia. 

Such a beautiful place and I wish I could have stayed an extra night and visited my sister-in-law.  Alas.

The conference was a pretty good day, with case study-style talks from the banking industry, the National Broadband Network, insurance & financial services and industrial product design, as well as thought leadership talks from customer experience design experts. 
My presentation was on Quantifying Customer Experience - the Four Eras of Customer Analytics.  The basic point was that as experience designers, you've got two questions to ask:
1 What's going on, and where should I meddle, (let's call that one question) and
2 If I do, will it be worth it?
While analytics alone are deeply insufficient to drive experience design, if you want to get funding for a customer experience improvement project, you're going to have to satisfy the bean counters.  (I think I was saying "bean counters" when my mate Stephen took this shot.)  And if you're collecting analytics around customer satisfaction, chances are, you're doing it wrong. If your metrics can't tell a story about real business outcomes and show a positive link to increased revenue, then as far as a CFO is concerned, you're dead in the water, and you may as well pack up your Sharpies and your Post-its.
There's a Storify summary of all the Twitter traffic from the conference here. (I have to admit, I did quickly scroll down to the after-lunch portion of the timeline to see what the reaction had been, and if people were saying good or bad things about my talk.) 
You can see the talk on Slideshare above.
(and here is the official link to the pdf in the SMS Publications, and to the Conference recap, which will eventually include the SOUND)
Hope you enjoy.

4 Lessons in business transformation from a former religious extremist

Learning can come from unexpected places - Notes from a terror propaganda man:

Maajid Nawaz was born in Essex in the UK.  He gave a TED talk at TED Global in July 2011.  In his talk, he revealed that from the age of 19, for thirteen years, he was a member of an Islamist extremist organisation, and his focus, from the UK to Pakistan, to Denmark and to Egypt, was on spreading the messages of their social movement in order to unite similar extremists across borders, to make it easier to take collective action.

After spending time being tortured in an Egyptian prison, he had an ideological change of heart.  He also has a message to spread:  
"The people - he says - taking best advantage of the state of the art in knowledge and tools to effectively spread big messages are the extremists... and this isn't right."  
His talk is aimed at giving some insight to people he would like to see spreading pro-Democracy messages.  I think there are lessons that can be extracted for busines people too.

The four ages of identity - our messaging needs
His brief history of time includes a description of four ages of identity, and what it was  in each of those ages that scholars believe gave us our sense of belonging:
  1. The age of religion:  In medieval times, identity came from affiliation to a religion
  2. The age of the Nation State: where ethnicity was the principal focus
  3. The age of Globalisation: where in citizenship in a nation superceded ethnicity, and
  4. The recently established age of Behaviour: in which people have allegiance to ideas and narratives that transcend borders.
It is in this age of behaviour - where communication is borderless and where allegiance is to ideals, that social technologies  can allow what would otherwise be isolated pockets of parochialism feel connected to each other and start taking action.  This works if they harness the key ingredients of a social movement.

The key ingredients - The anatomy of a social movement in 4 parts:
In his role as a trans-national propagandist, Maajid was conscious that the strongest social movements had four key ingredients:
  1. Ideas
  2. Narratives
  3. Symbols
  4. A Leader
You can see his description in the TED talk here.  His discussion of the four ingredients starts at 8:05.

To bind people together, these four ingredients must spring instantly to mind.  

He uses Al-Qaeda as an example and describes it thus:  
The ideas - the cause - of Al-Qaeda are something you can think of straight away.  The Narratives, the background stories or propaganda Al Qaeda uses to back that up (The "West" is at war with Islam etc...) also spring instantly to mind.  The symbols are easily conjured up (Journalists being executed by hooded men, the twin towers falling etc...), and the leaders of the movement are easily identifiable. 

Applying this thinking to business.
If you have anything to do with sponsoring transformation in your business, how often do you hear about problems relating to organisational "silos"?  I hear it all the time.   The political, ideological and structural 'identity borders' an extremist faces on the world stage show up in a company as its functional silos, its geography, its org design lines and its other organisational constructs.   


The kinds of challenges most businesses are dealing with often require those silos to dissolve - to become irrelevant.  For instance, I'm currently working with a very large national infrastructure provider, and one of their chief strategic goals - on the radar of the CEO - is to become more collaborative.  That is a tall order.  To move a big comapny from a state of being 'not collaborative' to something that people would be happy to describe as collaborative involves big changes to all kinds of things:  Culture and behaviours, the physical environment and processes, and of course the introduction of new technology.  It's a big challenge and it means that the company has to be viewed and treated as a complex adaptive system - while at the same time acknowledging that it is a collection of disparate 'nation states'.  The silos are a fact.

As architects of the transformation, we're being conscious to pay attention to the four key ingredients of social movements in order to help penetrate the silos.

Ideas - This strategy of collaboration is being well defined.  We're using specific strategic planning techniques (including RIOS planning - brainchild of my friend Chris Tipler and subject of a future post) to ensure that those things the company has to be good at are clearly defined, without being restrictive.  Complex adaptive systems have to be able to take advantage of emergence - and trying to lock the ideas into too rigid a construct can backfire.  (Imagine trying to throw a birthday party for 24 nine-year-olds using a Gantt chart and milestones...)

Narratives - Narrative is one of the most powerful tools for establishing boundaries, getting complex messages across, making expected behaviour clear and for answering the question WHY.  The strategic story behind a transformation has to be made explicit.  I first really got bit by the bug of applying narrative techniques in business when I met Shawn Callahan of Anecdote in London.  Gartner has published an article (Use Storytelling to Solve Wicked Problems), quoting a lot of Shawn's research. 

In his last keynote as CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs uses narrative to explain why Apple was doing all the things it was doing in launching iCloud.  It's masterful, and worth the watch.  There's a brilliant analysis of it as a Strategic Story at Anecdote here, but in a nutshell, 

Steve starts by describing the 'Once upon a time' history. He then goes on to share the Turning point (what changed), describe What we want to be, and therefore What we have to do.  Then, he spends the rest of the time interacting with other Apple execs doing live demos to show What the new world will look like
"Ten years ago we had one of our most important insights at Apple..."
In less than two minutes, that core narrative structure did a great deal of the heavy lifting answering the question "Why" about all the work that must've been going on at Apple.  Why people were working overtime building more server farms.  Why, while the champagne had probably just stopped flowing over wrangling out the legal issues to get the Beatles on iTunes, all the contracts were probably having to be re-written because of the new conventions iCloud indroduced around rights and syncing.  Maajid Nawaz, our former extremist knew the power of narrative in doing his job - so does Apple.

Symbols - Symbols - especially concrete object symbols give us a tangible, visual reminder of the cause.  Here's a symbol I saw a week ago at a major bank: 

When I took the picture, I didn't even know the whole story yet, but good symbols say so much on thier own:  

It's pretty clear that in a movement to simplify processes, one of the bank's internal paperwork forms was universally hated.  Once they had managed to streamline their processes and retire that form, they mocked it up in cement, smashed it to smithereens with a big hammer and then, like heads on a row of pikes on the road into a medieval village, they left the rubble in a wheelbarrow in a prominent communal place as a symbol of the movement.  (And a warning to any other overly bureaucratic and un-necessary bits of paperwork?) 

Non-visual symbols
Of course, not all symbols have to be visual.  This is another role for stories.  Good executives can tell stories.  Better execs can tell a story and recognise a story when they hear one (so it can be harnessed..)  The best executives can tell a story, recognise a story and know how to trigger a story.

Two companies known for their outstanding customer serivce, US retailer Nordstrom and global hotelier Ritz Carlton use stories of amazing, surprising, inspiring acts of customer service as the main focus of their induction and training material.  Blow the profitability of a sale at Nordstrom by going over the top with story-worthy customer service do you don't get sacked?  No - you get turned into a rock star.  Both that fact, and every story associated with it are great symbols in aid of their movement.

The fourth ingredient for a social movement is a leader.

Leader - Does the leader of the movement spring to mind?  Who is steadfastedly sticking to their guns in the face of difficulty?  On whom can you depend as a beacon when the waters get muddied, when the decisions get tough or when you just don't know what to do next? 

How emboldened, empowered, and galvanised for action do you think employees would feel under these circumstances:  They got the email describing behaviours they were expected to start showing because of the new program, they'd been subjected to the PowerPoint presenation, seen the roadshow and have the little reminder card that has been deposited on every desk.  But then, when their boss, or their boss's boss stood up at some event, or had a one-on-one with them, or was somehow involved, they got nothing.  Or worse, they saw something inconsistent or off-message with the transformation?

Steve Jobs is an obvious visible leader for his cause.  So was Osama bin Laden.  If the leader of the movement springs instantly to mind, it's easier to unite those critical pockets who are already living the new values.  Who is the face of your transformation effort?

Learning can come from unexpected places.

Clarity Rule:  Know the anatomy of a social movement, and cover all four bases.  Know your ideas, have a core narrative, propagate symbols and have a leader.

5 presentation lessons from the King's Speech

Jesse Desjardins @jessedee pulled together a nice slideshare presentation with five good preso reminders we can take from the popular movie the King's Speech.

The five lessons are the following:

  1. Have faith in your voice
  2. Admit you need help
  3. Put the hours in (!!)
  4. Become an expert from experience
  5. Broadcast a true version of your self (a bit like Garr Reynolds' presenting naked)

Have a peek at his great slideshare slides below. Note the full-bleed images (no logo-every-page-corporate-template-nonsense there) and the appropriate use of typography. I like how well the tone of the font on the 'lessons' pages matches the old school microphone.

Thanks to Darren Rouse @problogger for the tweet.

Creepy robots and how not to turn people off when telling business stories

On the right is the face of one of the most sophisticated androids on the planet. Nevertheless, the face isn't quite right is it?... In fact it's kind of creepy.

So! It looks like authenticity is going to be one of the new trends in presentation for 2011. Hallelujah! (See Nancy Duarte's other predictions here.)

I once had a mentor of mine tell me:
"Greg, listen very carefully and remember this: Intent (he said,) counts more than technique."

And he was right. It's a saying that has stuck with me for a lot of years. What he meant was that you can learn all the clever people-influencing techniques you like (You know the ones:
  • conversations for rapport through common ground,
  • mirroring and matching body language and breathing pattern,
  • benefit-focussed solution selling, or
  • S.P.I.N. selling,
  • etc... etc...)
But if your intentions aren't in the right place, it shows. You just somehow know when someone is 'techniquing' you. You can see right through it can't you? On one hand, your friend waxes lyrical with puppy dog-like enthusiasm about why you should switch from your boring old PC to a super-cool Mac like she has, and even if you don't want to switch, you don't really mind her (neverending) insistence. But if some cheesy, over-slick salesperson tries to 'sell' you on one, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth from the second they sidle up to you and come out with their first over-friendly greeting.

The truth leaks out the sides
The difference is about where they're genuinely coming from. No matter what 'technique' the super-slick salesperson may be using, there's something - some subtle combination of non-verbal cues that leaks their real intent (to 'sell' you) out the side and gives you a feeling in your gut - one way or another.

Of course nobody wants to be presented to by a "hey-there, hi-there, ho-there" cheesy salesperson type, but I read a very interesting analogy from robot design of all things that puts some science behind at least one reason authenticity counts.

It's from my friend Shawn Callahan
(one of my Clarity Heroes) over at Anecdote. He found a great parallel between the feeling we get looking at different kinds of robots and the difference between what he calls 'Big-S' storytelling and 'Little-S' storytelling at work. What am I talking about - you ask? Read on.

This is from Shawn's post:
Imagine a spectrum of storytelling. At one end is Big 'S' Storytelling which includes those beautifully crafted stories we see in movies, novels, plays and even the latest Playstation games. Big 'S' Storytellers understand plot structures, character development, scene design and a myriad of other storytelling principles and practices. At the other end of the spectrum is Small 's' Storytelling where we find the stories we tell on a daily basis in conversations, anecdotes, recounts and examples.
Slipping into 'story mode'
Big-S storytelling techniques can be very useful to help with clarity - to help get your point across in a more vivid, engaging way. However, like the cheesy sales techniques, they can also be a trap. If you're trying hard with techniques like voice modulation and vivid imagery, even slightly missing the mark screams that you've stopped talking normally and have slipped into 'story mode'. Ever been having coffee with someone who recently started a new job? Often, if the conversation drifts to how they got it, you can tell the moment they've switched from just talking to you and started giving you the resume answers they used in their interviews. They've slipped into 'story mode'. And unless they're world-class seriously good at it, without meaning to, anybody talking in 'story-mode' risks being distractingly, eye-rollingly cringe-worthy.

So how do creepy robots fit in to all this?
In his post, Shawn introduces the findings of Japanese robot maker Mashahiro Mori, who found in his research that we only like our robots to be human-like up to a point, after which they fall into the creepy-zone he calls the Uncanny Valley - where they wallow in creepiness - until they become perfect and pop out the other side as likeable again.


Source: Crossing the uncanny valley, The Economist, Nov 18th 2010.

With this analogy, Shawn is saying that like making a too-close-to-human android face, using Big-S storytelling techniques to get close to delivering a Big-S story experience can be a dangerous thing, and risks alienating your listeners by propelling you into the creepy-zone of story-mode.

Like all things Anecdote, it's a post worth reading - see the full text here.

Clarity rule:
Sometimes an unvarnished recounting of an experience is better than a carefully prepared "the-moral-of-this-story" story. To get a point across at work, it's a million times better to be clumsy and authentic than it is to be too much of a storytelling technique try-hard.

Four presentation predictions for 2011

Nancy Duarte, one of my Clarity Heroes, author of Slide:ology and Resonate has posted her annual presentation predictions for 2011. In quick summary, her four predictions are:

  1. Tablet war will shape the future of presentation
  2. Authenticity will trump 'spin'
  3. Slides will be hand-sketched and scanned in
  4. People will opt more for 'no-slide' presentations
See her full post here.

The Surprising Truth about what motivates you

Below is a great video from Dan Pink.

In it, Dan presents some excellent research into motivation which will help leaders decide what to be clear about if they're trying to encourage good performance. A lot of it ties in with the earlier post on Clarity Rules: Why clearly linking reward to your change programme is harder - and easier - than you thought.

What's more, Dan's animation is also a terrific example of communicating something complex in a very understandable way.

Have a watch.


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