Talking to Idiots

January 18, 2007 · Posted in innovation, strategy · Comment 

One of the traits of a great innovation is how obvious it appears once you’ve seen it. Unfortunately a lot of frustration can occur trying to explain the innovation to people who haven’t yet grasped the concept. Often it feels like you are trying to explain the innovation to an idiot. While this might be the case, if your innovation depends on explaining it to idiots you have a serious problem. Chances are that your idea will not become an innovation very soon if you can’t explain it to investors and it definitely won’t if you can’t explain it to customers.

How can you tell if the problem is with the way you are explaining it or if you really are just talking to an idiot? If the person you are talking to is an idiot, move on. But if they aren’t an idiot you are left with two other possibilities. The first is you aren’t explaining it very well. That can be easily fixed. The second is a warning sign that your idea won’t catch on. If your idea is too far ahead of a customer’s demand they won’t understand it. If that is the case you will waste a lot of time and money trying to bring it to market.

In communication sciences we have a term for this, its called rupture. Two people might be using similar or even the exact same words but using different definitions or making assumptions that are radically different. The meaning of the message gets lost in transmission. The context is as important as the code of any communication.

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Want vs. Need

December 4, 2006 · Posted in problem solving · Comment 

I’m going to teach you something that will change your life forever. It’s very simple and it’s an essential element to happiness, success or just avoiding misery.

If you plan to be successful, fulfilled or just avoid misery an essential step is to understand the difference between Need and Want.

People often use those words interchangeably. But the two words are very different. Beyond a mere level of importance want is different from need.

We all understand want, it’s a feeling. Want is self existent. There is no reason or validation required to want. You want, end of story. Many times our wants really aren’t our but I’ll cover that topic in another article.

Need is what we tend to have the most difficulty with. We have so much difficulty with the concept of need that most people don’t even use it properly in a sentence.

I’m sure you have heard someone say, “You need to clean up your room”, or “you need to exercise”, or “you need to have fun.” Do you realize that none of those are complete thoughts? Do you know what is missing? It’s obvious once I tell you. And when you hear it you will never look at the world the same. Each of those statements is missing the reason.

When you say, “need” or “must” or “should” there is always a “reason” or an “in order to” that goes with it. For instance, “You should clean your room, in order to avoid losing things.” And, “You need to have fun, to be healthy.”

Now think about every time you have said, need, must, should, or ought. What was the reason? Until you know the reason for your actions you can’t determine if the action is correct. How can you tell if what you are doing will achieve the goal unless you know what the goal is?

Action Items:

  • Make a list of the “need” statements you most often use.
  • Add at least one “in order to” for each “need”.
  • Make a list of “need” statements you hear others use.
  • Either, ask others for their “in order to” or try to figure out some.
  • Reassess your and other peoples actions based on “in order to” statements.