Lead the change 4


4 ways to avoid unconscious bias and situational blindness

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Jan 28, 2018 | 0 Comments


Most of what we believe, even with conviction and assuredness, may possibly be completely mistaken or, at least, fundamentally flawed. 

Now, that is quite a statement, but it bears thinking about and indeed reviewing with the cold and emotionless detachment of an independently appointed statistician.

This can be a particularly important consideration; partly because such blindness can have a catastrophic effect on our businesses, our personal lives, in our communities and in our relationships:

• Situational (or contextual) blindness can rob us of opportunities and possibilities to innovate, to grow, to connect and to build and expand

• Unconscious bias can build unnecessary walls and frictions within our relationships and communications with our team, our customers or clients and within our communities and partnerships

• Ingrained prejudices expose us to risks, both reputational and financial, and can cloud our judgment and set our processes up for failure 

• And narrow mindedness, an intolerance of dissent or even a resistance to respectful questioning, can cost us dearly in economic terms as well as in our own performance and team engagement.

The other way these biases might be detrimental, is that, by definition, we are unconscious and perhaps even resistant in our relationship to them. And where there is a lack of awareness, by omission or design, there is risk.

Consider what most of us tend to think of as our most important beliefs – our moral code or religious values.

Now this is not to question your personal beliefs, nor is it an argument for or against any particular religious or non-religious doctrine. So please relax, this post is not written to decry beliefs but rather to broaden situational awareness and in doing so, aid you in amplifying your influence and alertness.

So for now, let’s look at belief more broadly as a concept:

Firstly, no matter what your religious belief (which, again, is entirely your business), you will fall into a demographic statistic – a proportion of the human population.

For instance, roughly one third of the world’s population identifies as Christian, about another third call themselves Muslim and the rest of the religious population, plus those who are atheist or agnostic, make up the final third.

Additionally, all of these belief systems are essentially mutually exclusive – in other words, you can’t be both Muslim and Buddhist or Christian and atheist for example.

What this means is, regardless of what you believe, in terms of statistical probability, there is an approximately 65-67% chance (now brace yourself)… that you are wrong. That all or any of us are wrong!

(Again, I’m not suggesting that you definitely are wrong, I’m simply doing the math… so deep breaths everyone.)

Simply put, this raw data, and the resulting statistical spread, necessarily point to the fact that, according to impartial probability, you, and indeed all of us, are highly likely to be incorrect. (Remember, not saying you are… just probably… OK. I think we got away with that…phew!)

Now, all of the above assumes that each of these groups is homogenous within itself – that one portion of the world’s Christians and Muslims (or the other less populous religions) do not fundamentally believe that the other denominations within their own number are in fact heretics who have misinterpreted the word of their god or gods. Of course, this is an erroneous assumption.

We know, for instance, that Sunnis & Shiers and Catholics & Protestants, and the divisions within many or most of the other thousands of religions around the planet from Judaism to Hinduism, often refer to each other with open skepticism or even thinly veiled hostility. And this is within their own particular belief system – outside of these cohorts, conflict likely increases.

So, even within a particular belief, homogeny is not assured. This means the chances of you, or I, making the correct choice are diminished even further. In fact, the statistical probability that you and I are wrong (not saying you are… breathe… breathe…) is actually higher, and indeed much higher, that the 65-67% I mentioned earlier.

Now, I wonder if I were to ask you to cross the road, assuming a less than 30% statistical probability of making it to the other side, if you would step up to the curb? Of course, that is precisely the statistic probability we all face in terms of making it to “the other side”.

So here we are – the entire world’s population has a greater than average chance of being wrong (and possibly completely wrong) about the singular belief that they hold to be the most important in terms of informing their morality and codes of behavior.


Two things to note before we move on:

Clearly, I’ve chosen a provocative illustration to make my point. I’ve done this precisely because whatever discomfort you may have felt whilst reading the preceding paragraphs should alert you to how instinctively and passionately we feel the need to defend our long held and unquestioned beliefs.

Importantly, it must also be stated that statistics are not facts – they can only point to probabilities and tendencies. However, the underlying lesson here is that, though we might feel a personal certainty about our beliefs, we may still be arguing against the numbers.

Of course, this pattern of entrenched beliefs plays out in every area of our lives, from business to politics and even within our families and social relationships.

We have our own unconscious biases toward particular personality types, with regard to particular skills sets, methodologies and processes. Our prejudices and intolerances drive us every minute of every day, and yet we tend to assume that we are mostly acting out of clinical and logical decision-making using emotionally intelligent judgment.

This, it turns out, is a bit of a problem.

Which is not to say that we should abandon our belief systems – rather that we might approach the various situations we encounter in life with a little more humility, curiosity and open mindedness.

Moreover, it is in our interest to actively seek cognitive diversity in our teams, reading, research and social interactions – those who can respectfully challenge us and help us to see the world from points of view other than our own or of those who see from similar positions to our own.

Often, The Impossible Institute will work with an organization and be asked to conduct a “Cultural Audit”. Part of this often includes a measurement of Collaborative Intelligence (or We-Q™) – which is informed by the diversity of the skills sets and thinking styles within the team. We do this because, we believe, Team Genius is a better outcome than the “overly harmonious” homogeny of the alternative.

What we often find through this process, is most organizations’ and business’ default position is a “check box” view of diversity along lines of gender, ethnicity and sexuality (all of which are incredibly important). However, a diversity of thinking styles is often overlooked.

For example, a leader might surround themselves with a male or female version of themselves, or an Indian, Chinese, Italian, English, American, Australian, German or South African version of themselves. This means that we’re still likely to be having the same conversations and reaching the same, predictable conclusions, just in different accents and inflections.

This leaves us vulnerable to falling in love with our own opinions whilst calling them due diligence.

So how do we avoid falling victim to unconscious biases and situational blindness when, by definition, we’re blind to them?

1. Firstly, be diligent in seeking alternative points of view

Often, it is those we consider “irritating”, those who push our personal buttons and whose counsel we resist who can offer us the most value.

This is not to say that we submit to contrary opinions or that we deny our own intuition, simply that all growth requires a measure of resistance.

2. Be a little suspicious of too much agreement

Harmony can be a good thing, even desirous. Too much can become a problem.

If comfort is sort at the expense of truth and critical intelligence, we run the risk of creating a culture that is unaware of its environment and insulated against present dangers.

3. Question first principles 

Long established processes are not always indicative of correctness or usefulness.

Too often we hold on to outdated processes and systems simply because there is a sense of “rightness” associated with past precedent that may in fact be irrelevant in current circumstances.

4. Be more attached to results than your own sense of rightness

Leadership of any kind demands that our focus should be more on outcomes than on our own preferences or comfort levels.

Leadership actually demands a greater sense of humility and self awareness than does followership.

In the end, this is simply an invitation to all of us to raise our collective awareness to possibilities, relationships, risks and results that may lie just beyond the limits of our beliefs.

Of course, this might just be one of my beliefs, and statistically, that’s a problem too!

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Why every court (or Board or ELT) needs a jester and how to avoid becoming the fool

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Jan 27, 2018 | 0 Comments


You may be familiar with the phrase, “an ability to talk truth to power.” This has always been the role of the jester, or fool. The latter moniker was probably adopted as an insurance against misinterpretation and reprimand… “I’m just the fool, you can’t take anything I say seriously.”

The usefulness of both this skill and role have survived the age of kings, queens, emperors and courts and today, they have something to teach those of us who lead in more a contemporary context.

One of the risks Executive Leadership Teams and Boards face is that few of our people want to share bad news with us.

This should come as no surprise: historically, we’ve often been very quick to punish the bearers of bad news, so keeping your head down was rather a wise strategy.

This is obviously problematic – if something is going awry within our organization, we need to know about it before it becomes critical or perhaps even catastrophic.

Recently, the excellent Canadian journalist and social commentator, Malcolm Gladwell, in his podcast Revisionist History, suggested that satire didn’t work. Of course, I’m oversimplifying the depth of his assertion, but I’d also argue that one of the issues with this observation is that the case study cited (recent American elections), was also too narrow both in terms of time and effect.

Essentially, the broader piece explored how American satirists, people like Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah of The Daily Show, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and the team at SNL and Comics like Bill Maher of Real Time fame, had failed to stem the rise of the Alt Right and that in fact, supporters of both sides of politics were able to project their own views onto satire and read into it their own interpretation.

Three observations here: Firstly, I’m clearly paraphrasing Gladwell’s podcast to make a point. Secondly, I think it would be a disservice to the US voting public to suggest that the election hinged only on the ineffectiveness or otherwise of satire, and lastly, I think that the greater effect of such satire is still in play and shaping opinions on both side of the divide. Conservatives are no less adept at the use of their own style of ridicule than are liberals.

This observation is born out by history. In fact, what we know from studying human behavior more broadly is that ridicule, in all its forms, can be a rather reliable (if clumsy) behavioral modifier.

The parent who admonishes a young child by suggesting they are “acting like a baby”, the sibling who laughs at another’s fashion choices and the peer pressure to join in an act of cruelty for fear of being perceived as soft, are, albeit undesirable, strong demonstrations of humor’s effectiveness as a weapon.

However, humor need not always be weaponized, in fact, it can be used to quite the opposite effect.

A skillful use of humor can anesthetize an otherwise unpleasant conversation, it can build instant rapport through a recognition of shared experience and our shared humanity and importantly, at lease as far as this post is concerned, it can challenge authority and rigidity in a playful and relatively safe fashion (assuming of course it is done with skill and sensitivity).

So, what are the keys to playing the fool without appearing foolish?

1. Play the issue not the individual

I recall a conversation comedian Chris Rock shared with Jerry Seinfeld, Louis CK and Ricky Gervais on the nature of comedy.  Rock stated that the rule that the writing team on his show adhered to was to work the issue, the story or the incident, not the person or personality involved. i.e. “That was stupid, not YOU are stupid.”

In other words, he resisted the cheap laugh at the expense of a particular person in favor of striking a point against their position.

In doing likewise, you can remove or decrease the desire for reflexive defensiveness. A choice can be wrong without necessarily making the decision maker wrong.

2. Demonstrate the personal risk without increasing it.

Whilst ridicule and satire have their place, they are perhaps best used to create a sense of how a particular action might be perceived or critiqued by the broader community than delivered as a direct critique of those who are making the decision.

In this way, humor can be framed as a reputational risk assessment rather than as a glib criticism designed to score points.

By creating an arm’s length of distance through the use of phrases such as, “That might open us up to…” or, “People might say…” you free yourself to simulate parody without having to own it or its consequences.

3. If you’re going to be funny… be funny

If people typically don’t tell you you’re funny, you’re probably not.

This is perhaps the most critical point in this post. Too often, otherwise serious or quite emotionally intelligent people will attempt to “be funny” in a leadership meeting and end up in waaaaaay inappropriate territory. You know who I’m talking about and if you don’t, it’s you!

Reassuringly, it’s entirely OK to not be funny – humor is not everyone’s gift. It is not everyone’s role to speak truth to power, however, all of us can support it and be freed by it when it is spoken.

4. If you’re a leader, or you aspire to be, learn to love being heckled

A maxim dating back to the wild west of the United States posits that you can recognize a pioneer by the arrows sticking out of their back. The same, I’m afraid, often holds true for leadership.

Interestingly, the default response of most stand-up comedians when they begin their careers is to shut hecklers down with pre-rehearsed insults and zingy one-liners. However, as a comic develops their confidence and stage presence, there is a playfulness they learn to enjoy with their audiences – a dance they relish, even with those who cross the line.

Of course, they are still very much in control, but they have an ability take what is thrown at them, build on it and in doing so, earn both respect and develop a more bullet proof set.

Too often leaders and boards operate in echo chambers supported by managers who are too afraid to speak truth to power. This leaves them to navigate their organizations guided by half-truths, faulty intelligence and unconscious biases.

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from the Jester – is to be a leader who gets, and can take, a joke!

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5 reasons why we need to abandon hope & 1 reason why you might want to keep it

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Jan 27, 2018 | 0 Comments


That’s right, today I’m BBQin’ some motivational sacred cow!

Now I know this is going to offend some of you – this will challenge some long held beliefs, make the “hope police” angry and I imagine a good portion of you might experience some minor sphincter tightening – but I’m going to say it anyway:

Hope is a bad idea!”

Now, before we go any further, I want to make sure that you understand the distinction I make between hope and optimism.

Optimism, is in fact, generally a good thing… sometimes even a very good thing. On the whole, optimism tends to make us more creative, resilient, healthy and happy.

The difference between the two, I contend, is quite marked.

Optimism is always, in some way, linked to the context and environment you find yourself in. Optimism is usually fuelled by an apparent possibility, a potential opportunity or involves leveraged relationships, historic precedent, metaphorical reference points, or indeed, skills and capabilities we know to be within our reach.

Hope, on the other hand, is usually only grasped for, rather ironically, when things are hopeless.

Optimism might be understood as, “I studied hard so I’m optimistic about the test I’m about to take,” whereas hope is more akin to, “I didn’t study at all, I hope I pass!!!”

“OK, that makes sense, but why is hope such a bad thing?” you may be asking yourself. Excellent question.

Hope can be an awful idea principally because its primary purpose is to act as an anesthetic against the psychological discomfort of reality. In other words, it disconnects us from our circumstances and either delays, or completely impairs, our ability to take action in order that we might “feel” better (as opposed to actually “being” better off).

Hope keeps us in relationships that are tragically broken, “He/She will change.”

Hope makes us stay in investment positions longer than we should, “It’s gonna turn around, I just know it will.”

Hope has us executing business strategies we haven’t adequately prepared for and making commercial, personal and social decisions that may be damaging to ourselves and to others. “I hope this works!!!”

All of us, when prompted, can recall a list of experiences and personal stories, where we clung to hope and suffered, or caused other’s suffering, as a result.

What this boils down to is this: hope supports our adoption of risky positions and abets precarious situations, it encourages procrastination to the point of paralysis, it justifies delusions about our capabilities and clouds the real possibilities that surround us. All of this ultimately reveal hope as all to often the strategy of inaction and self-delusion.

If you can act and are willing to act, then don’t waste time hoping… simply act! If action is not possible, then a strategy that holds a greater chance of success is strategic exit, not hope.

Hope, as defined above, is unnecessary to maintaining an optimistic view of the world, of our potential, of business opportunities and yes, even of our dreams. Rather, it is highly likely that:

1. Hope undermines optimism, which exists within context and environment

2. Hope increases our risk by removing a reasonable sense of caution

3. Hope delays and, in some cases, impairs action

4. Hope disconnects us from reality and blinds us to actual possibilities

5. Hope destabilizes a successful strategy, instead encouraging a position of no strategy at all

OK, that’s why we need to abandon hope… So why might we want to keep hope? How might it be used to our benefit?

1. Hope is a powerful tool of influence

I say tool of influence, but in truth, hope has often tended to err towards the manipulation end of the influence spectrum.

It has been the go to methodology of quacks and alternative healers selling miracle diet pills and “cures” for terminal maladies, of corrupt politicians looking to grab a few votes, of religious gurus and teachers drumming up followers and tithes, of lobbyists and political activists looking to leverage public prejudices and biases and marketers who revel in unsubstantiated claims and false promises.

Now, hope need not always be used as a manipulative tool of influence, but that has certainly been part of its pedigree. The reason for this is that hope acts very much like a drug. It is immediately tempting, highly addictive and particularly appealing to the vulnerable and desperate – so use with caution.

My suggestion? Rather than fuelling hope, feed optimism by taking what action is available to you and, in doing so, reclaim your power! There is far more possibility in this world than we can ever truly comprehend, so don’t waste time with fantasy, embrace reality with a spirit of optimism.

Of course, it’s not my job to dictate your moral standards, merely to inform them…

… but I “hope” you’ll make the right decision.

CUE: Dr Evil-esque laugh.

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Why we need to rethink motivation and engagement

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Jan 26, 2018 | 0 Comments


For most of this discussion, I’ll be referring to the above Motivation & Engagement Model that I’ve borrowed from Colin James – colinjamesmethod.com.au

I’ve used the words Motivated and Unmotivated in place of Colin’s “Active and Passive” – partly because it makes more sense in this context, but mostly so I can do want untalented pop stars do during the songwriting process – “Change a word and claim a third”.

The model is fairly self-explanatory; it tracks engagement on one axis and motivation on the other. Colin then breaks down who, from an organizational perspective, sits in each quadrant.

In the highly motivated and engaged quadrant we have the “Performers” – these are the stars of our team. In the engaged but unmotivated quadrant, we have the “Players” – they show up, do their job and play along but don’t yet match the performers. Unmotivated and disengaged quadrant dwellers are referred to as “Passengers” – they’re coasting along and benefiting from the first two quadrants mentioned. And finally, our motivated and disengaged quadrant are the “Pissed off” – they’re disruptive and damaging to culture, performance and profitability.

This is all fairly straight forward. However, when we overlay some of the results of Gallup’s Global Workforce Engagement Study, the proportions start to become a little alarming.

The “Pissed off”, or actively disengaged workers, make up 20% or one fifth of the workforce. Potentially worse however are the “Passengers”, or the simply disengaged workers, who represent slightly more than 50% of the workforce. If we’re feeling generous, we might assume a healthy 5% of our staff are star “Performers” which leaves only a quarter of our team coming in as “Players”.

In other words, only 30% of the workforce (marked in the blue frame) identify as engaged, and the larger your organization, the more these number become statistically relevant. This is despite the best efforts of leaders to create cultures of the willing for the past few decades.

Engagement is key to performance, productivity, profitability & customer satisfaction

One other thing that Gallup’s study indicated was that organizations with high levels of engagement are more productive, have better performing staff, are more profitable and have significantly higher customer satisfaction measures than the norm. Put more concisely, the more engaged your staff, the more engaged your customers, clients, constituents and communities.

So this is a critical issue and it appears we are mostly getting it horribly wrong!

Our typical response is the carrot and stick

When faced with such a challenge our default thinking is to engage in a campaign of either discipline or motivation, or a combination of both. On the surface of it, this makes logical sense; increase motivation and the engagement will follow. Lift engagement and you’ll likely see a rise in performance and profitability.

This is often a sound strategy where simple tasks are to be performed by low or semi-skilled workers, but as complexity increases, the effectiveness of this approach diminishes.

We’re often told that motivation, discipline and engagement drive performance

Ask a professional athlete what made them successful and you almost always get a story of motivation and discipline – they just “wanted it more!” Of course, this is very good for their egos but hardly reflects reality or even probability.

Far more likely, they benefited from a specific genetic makeup, from being born in a location where their sport was favored or at least available, they probably had parents who were willing to get them out of bed for 5:00am training from an early age (giving them a ten year head start on less fortunate athletes they competed with in their mid teens) not to mention the sporting institutions, sports psychologists and specialist coaches that are enrolled to develop an athlete with demonstrating even a modicum of promise in the developed world…. but yeah, they just wanted it more!

This is not to dismiss the role of discipline and motivation, merely to reveal the untold side of the story and dial down a little of the ego-based hype and the ensuing blame that is leveled at those who are less successful – i.e. “You just didn’t want it enough!”

It is usually very lucky people who tend to claim there’s no such thing as luck. However, what is true, is that we can increase our chances of experiencing it.

Performance precedes both motivation and engagement

This seems counter intuitive and it certainly runs contrary to all of the stories of heroic success we’ve been raised on (or indoctrinated by).

What we know from behavioral studies carried out all around the world is that “Design beats Discipline”. In other words, a system, process or environment designed with a bias towards success and away from failure generates more reliable and predictable success than motivation and discipline alone.

An example of this is the work we do with financial institutions who have identified a “performance gap” between intention and action when it comes to personal savings schemes.

Ask any audience if saving for the future is a good idea and you’ll receive unanimous support. Ask the same group who has more money set aside in voluntary savings (things like bonds and shares) than they do in compulsory (or systematized) savings (things like a mortgage, superannuation or 401K) and the response is quite different.

In fact, the only time customers of banks and financial institutions achieve consistent success in saving for the future, is when the money is deducted from their salary or wage before they ever see it and is placed into an account they have limited access to.

In other words, when there is a bias towards success and failure is rendered highly unlikely, we get “lucky” or at least luckier.

Design drives success and performance, but how does this precede motivation and engagement?

One of the things that teachers observe in early childhood is that we work harder to be good at things we’re already good at. If, for instance, I demonstrate some artistic ability, I am more likely to spend my time practicing it. This in turn improves performance, which elicits praise and so the cycle continues.

I observed this same tendency as a guitar teacher (the profession that allowed me to live well whilst at university).

The traditional teaching method, which had informed my own learning experience, is to develop technical capability a little at a time and progressively move from one small gain to the next.

Then, years later after much disciplined practice, you might just be able to play a song or two. If you have ever tried to get a child to do their music practice, you’ll know that carrots and sticks soon ensue.

I decided to try something different. Instead, I asked the children I was teaching who their favorite pop or rock act was. Then, with no care for technical proficiency, I taught them to play a song by the artist in the first few weeks.

They had no real understanding of the musical theory behind what they were doing (I’d add that later) but their motivation and engagement went through the roof. Parents were effusive with their praise for both me and their children, telling me that their progeny were likely prodigies, such was their enthusiasm for practice.

All I had done, was to put performance (something that would usually elude them for months if not years) at the beginning of their journey and motivation and engagement followed.

Help us feel competent and connected and we’ll be more engaged & enthusiastic

So how might this play out in organizational life? Quite simply, it means a move away from the charismatic model of leadership (or less reliance on it) and a shift towards leadership that is more strategic and design-based. Develop systems and processes that make performance easier and more likely and engagement and motivation will follow.

Let’s revisit our model.

Most of a leader’s focus will be centered on the “Performers” and the “Pissed off” (outlined in red). Which is hardly surprising, we elevate those who do well and manage (or manage out) those who we deem to be destructive.

As logical as this may seem it is, I’m afraid, a mistake – a mistake because we are focused on only a quarter of our team and only a fifth of them are worth keeping.

Better, in my opinion, to focus on the bottom two quadrants (marked in green) and instead of berating them for not being more like the “Performers”, develop systems that allow them to play at that level with greater ease and less to lose (indicated in magenta).

Make this kind of performance possible independent of motivation and engagement and motivation and engagement will ultimately show up.

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How to move from Storytelling to Story Doing

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Jan 24, 2018 | 0 Comments


It’s hard to argue against the power story telling wields as a tool of influence and persuasion.

Indeed, it is one of the oldest and most revered of our communication tools, one that allows us to take mundane facts and pedestrian ideas and render them memorable, personal and pass-on-able.

In fact, virtually every culture, be they national, social or organizational, is merely the collection of behaviors and beliefs codified in our shared stories.

I have a particular interest in storytelling, as it is a skill that has helped me build my business (and in turn fuelled my cash flow) in the work I do with C-Suite Executives, Board Directors, Leadership Teams and Sales and Marketing professionals. In helping them hone the craft of storytelling in their presentations, communications and pitches it has given me immense rewards, both personally and professionally, as well as building their confidence, presence and persuasiveness.

However, as compelling as a story well told might be, what I consider to be even more engaging, more influential and exciting, is a concept I call Story-Doing.

I define this as the capacity to design into our processes, systems and behaviors unique experiences that might be worth telling a story about?

In doing so, we move from the position of storyteller to story protagonist or hero.

So what are the core elements of Story-Doing?

1. Develop a signature move or “no-where-else experience”

We often assume that a good experience, good leadership or good service is worth telling a story about. I’d like to put it to you that good is actually a hygiene factor, the cost of entry or table stakes.

The truth is, we only really notice the outliers in our experience. If we expect good (and today we very much do) then we become blind to it – and rarely share it via our stories.

What we do notice, and take an interest in, is the unanticipated, the inspiring or the surprising. The key here is to engineer the extraordinary into the everyday, or to do the thoughtfulness before the thoughtfulness is required.

This is something I observed in an IKEA store foyer a number of years ago. The skies were teeming with rain outside as I ran from my car to the store’s entry way, and there, on a sandwich board handwritten in chalk were the words, “We’ve noticed it’s raining outside… so we’ve cut the price of our umbrellas in half.”

All of a sudden I liked IKEA a little more and felt more predisposed to part with some of my hard earned folding in their establishment.

I tracked the store manager down and, as a trainer of people myself, asked them what kind of training they were offering to ensure that this kind of proactive thoughtfulness showed up in their team’s behavior.

They shared with me, “We don’t train them to be thoughtful, that’s already done. The sign is always in a storeroom, we just train them to wheel it out when it’s raining.”

This made me appreciate the sign even more.

2. Ensure it is relevant & and make it personal

I mentioned earlier that Story-Doing allows you to become the hero of your story, however, the hero of the experience itself should be the person you wish to share the story on your behalf – be it your customer, a member of your team or a constituent in your community.

Too often, in designing our strategies, processes and systems, we filter the world through our own eyes, our world-view and our personal biases and objectives. This is a critical error in building engagement and establishing influence.

The more relevant we can make an experience, in terms of timing, personal salience and accessibility, the more enthusiastic others will tend to be in the sharing of it. Which leads me to my final point:

3. Make your Story-Doing “pass-on-able”

We live in a social media age where every meal or clothing decision is documented, photographed, peer reviewed, commented on, liked, challenged and shared, retweeted or “quoted”.

In fact, Neilsen research has estimated that 91% of our decisions are influenced by friend recommendations. These recommendation, unsurprisingly, often take the form of a story.

To encourage pass-on-ability, consider how your story might be retold verbally, in written form or even visually. The more you’re able to furnish the eventual storyteller with the tools that bring their story to life, the more engaging the story will be in the eyes of others.

So, by all means, learn to tell a story well (you might even consider getting some training from an expert in the field). But while you’re about it, consider also what activity you might add to the most mundane of your day-to-day tasks that are so extraordinary they might be worth telling a story about.

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