Joe has one tweet that I’ve had favourited for years now. It’s one of those things that we have always agreed on and something that makes us both unsuited for academia and probably comes from our journalistic background:
We resent the use of large words when smaller ones will suffice.
I find that a lot of people in business, especially in person at conferences or meeting, use long preambles to their questions as though they are trying to demonstrate their expertise so that the person the question is directed at knows they deserve to be there.
I, of course, have been guilty of this. It’s part of imposter syndrome – you want to prove that you have good reason to be at the mic. But really? Most of the room is not there to see how smart you are and why you deserve to be there. They assume that you’re interested and there to learn more about the topic at hand. Just ask your question. You will get an answer without wasting anyone’s time.
The same is true in meetings, in online forums, in blog posts, all forms of communication. Keep it tight, simple, get your point across and move on.
When you’re using big words and long sentences, when you’re writing long preambles and take forever to get to the point you’re not proving anything, you’re just losing people.
In his new book Show Your Work (the follow up to Steal like an Artist, hence the title of this post), Austin Kleon argues that most great thinkers did not do their thinking alone. It is impossible to be creative by yourself, you need other thinkers to talk things out with. That’s the scenius Kleon writes about.
Most of my life I have been surrounded by people to bounce ideas off of. I have two parents who were highly educated and willing to debate and offer advice, I have an older sister who has three (yes, three) Masters degrees. I have a husband who is always willing to sit down with me and hash things out, and I have a number of friends with similar experiences and different ones who can offer perspective. I have also been blessed to work with people who have been willing and able to offer my advice, and people I consider mentors.
Since starting my own business it has become more important to grow that scenius. I have visited various networking groups to learn from those who have blazed this path before. Learning from people who have been there, dealt with that, not that long before you is a major boost.
I don’t believe in the old adage that great minds think alike, and that’s precisely why what Kleon is saying here makes absolute sense. When you’re trying to think creatively you cannot get trapped in your own head.
Who belongs in your scenius?
Today at Blissdom Canada we got to hear a keynote from Kirstine Stewart, the head of Twitter Canada. She had a lot of interesting things to say about how people use Twitter and the evolution of it, but one thing stuck out from her talk and it was the answer to a question.
Someone asked how she responds to people who don’t see Twitter as a useful tool and she said that 40 per cent of Twitter users just read, they don’t converse. She recommends that people watch Twitter and figure out how it could be useful to them – who to follow, what’s being talked about, how they fit into the community.
This brought me back to my time at a full-time office job when I was watching as Twitter became more and more important in politics and news and I had to convince my bosses that we needed to be paying attention.
It wasn’t enough to tell them who was already there, I had to demonstrate what kind of conversations were going on. I started paying attention and sending around the relevant posts and eventually the higher-ups figured out that this was a conversation we should be a part of.
The best part? As Stewart mentioned in her talk, you can follow hashtags and reach your audience at the times when they are paying close attention. Twitter can be a really useful tool for anyone trying to get a specific message to specific types of people.
I keep a lot of lists. It’s something that I learned at a summer job years ago – keeping a notebook with my upcoming tasks and check boxes beside keeps me on track. I’ve tried to keep these lists going with colleagues and at home with my husband, but it’s been hard to find a way to have it all make sense to everyone.
I first read about Trello on The Next Web‘s blog. It was listed as one way to improve productivity. Since my husband had told me that my usual email lists get lost in the shuffle, and Trello allows you to share boards between people I signed up.
I’ve only started using the basics of Trello, creating cards with titles for different things we need to have on our radar. I create my checklists a week at a time, to do lists for both of us, and I have a separate board for things, like Christmas gifts, that I want to keep for myself. I love being able to add comments to things so that we both get updated.
Trello is something I will definitely share with clients if they need to be kept up to date on the status of various parts of a project and can make comments on the things they want changed. Added to Google Docs or Dropbox it’s a wonderful things for a virtual office.
I recently did some work entering and analyzing survey data for a client, and the way I approached it was to seek out a survey website and build an electronic version of the survey that my client’s client had sent out as a hard copy.
My first attempt was to use Survey Monkey, because it’s a site that I’ve heard of and I’ve known people who have used it. It’s fairly straightforward to build a survey, but with their free version you can only include 10 questions. Since the survey I was working with had 11 questions plus demographic data, that wasn’t going to work for me.
My second attempt was FluidSurvey, and while some of the descriptions for types of questions were not self-explanatory, I did some trial and error work and got the survey set up in a functional way.
Both the survey sites I looked at offered a free service, with fees added to get additional services, such as the ability to download your compiled data.
Surveys can be a great tool to help businesses focus, but they have to be well thought out and written clearly. Putting a good survey up on one of these sites can help find out more about your audience and how they view your brand and get quick access to all the data.