The Three M’s of Motivation – part 1: Cross the Moat

ICAA_2009_Huge.010As part of my ICAA presentation on “Using Video: When it’s powerful, when it’s not”, I first talked about how we think and what motivates us. To set it up I used a clip of a little boy who I had interviewed. I asked him, “If you could change the world, what would you change?” His reply melts your heart: “I would change my bad behaviors. Because I want to get out of here quick”.

For each of us, the world is experienced through the self, and even global concerns are felt through our personal pain and experience. So my point was that all we can ever expect from any audience is to view what we present through the prism of their personal experience, values, and pain.

Therefore when we approach any audience we wish to motivate, the first point we must realize is that there is a moat between us — a major chasm in most cases. To communicate effectively, we must cross that moat, and we cannot do that by asking the audience to build the bridge, to see our viewpoint. We must cross the divide ourselves. As an example I showed this short clip from a Cedarville admissions video I did a few years ago:

For prospective students to a conservative Christian college, it was important to show empathy toward those who may be getting family pressure to attend… and who are wondering whether they’ll learn to love a school that might not be their first choice. This sort of honest doubt is not often seen in college videos, where the conventional wisdom seems to say, “always put your best foot forward.”

Here’s another example from a video we produced for Limited Brands. In this case, a worker slips up a bit when he says he doesn’t care how much they take out of his pay for the United Way. Well, he doesn’t care as long as it’s not too much, right? This humorous slip, including his embarrassed question as to whether it will be edited out, adds a refreshing degree of candor and helps break the ice that is always in the back of our listener’s minds: what can I afford to give? Where does giving become unfair to my own family?

Again, we’re building a bridge to the audience’s side of the moat by acknowledging that we understand their concerns. We’re giving them permission to worry about their own needs, instead of adopting a tone that attempts to shame them into giving. Just before this point in the video, the Chairman, Les Wexner, has very congenially asked for “their fair share”, and promised that he and the leadership of the business are doing that. But it would be easy for an audience member to discount the example of a wealthy boss. It’s not so easy to discount the sacrifice of a fellow worker… which is why these kinds of bridge-building statements are so important to authenticity, and therefore to successful motivation.

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Twitter soon obsolete? Tell me something I didn’t know… :-)

Jason Clark writes a great article in the iMedia Connection blog on the topic, “Why Twitter will soon become obsolete”. Key takeaway from his perspective: Google Wave is the Next Big Thing.

His article is well-researched and tracks other milestones in the social networking world: MySpace, Facebook, all the way back to the email and bulletin boards. Here’s his chart:

JasonClarksTimeline

I have been in the communications business since slightly before this chart started, beginning right out of high school as an apprentice typographer. I started on the NBT of that era, the Mergenthaler VIP machine… arguably the first successful photo-typography system to give hot lead typography a run for its money. No, this does not make me an old man! I’m a very young 56, and if you doubt it, I’ll meet you on the basketball court!

But the accelerating pace of change in all the media and methods of communication throughout my career illustrates why no one should ever think we’ve reached a plateau where we can rest and enjoy the view.

When I started, marketing meant sales, and sales meant “Push”. Shout. Ads. And the media were massive print — either mass-market ads or direct mail — and broadcast. I started on the print side, and the technology for most printed matter on the eve of when I started was the Mergenthaler Linotype machine, which had been the state of the art for about 75 years. (By the way, it was the Mergenthaler Linotype in 1886 that sent Mark Twain into bankruptcy when he sunk a fortune into the Paige typesetting machine). I joined the industry as part of a new wave of young people doing photo-typesetting on primitive computerized electro-mechanical machines. I learned on the Mergenthaler VIP,

Mergenthaler VIP

Mergenthaler VIP

a bonafide Next Big Thing in the advertising and design world, which opened amazing doors of versatility in the form of the written word. It required whole new approaches to every step of the design and printing process.

No one in the communications business had heard of an internet in the 70s.  But we had plenty of new ideas to adapt to and utilize in our work flow. Yes, we were talking at people. (more on that in another post). Yes, the technology of media communications was still firmly in the hands of those who could afford to use it: ad agencies, publishers, producers. But the trend of pleasing audiences, worrying about audience reactions, rapid-fire change and constant personal re-invention goes back at least that far. I’d say it probably goes back to the 50s in some respects, but a major technology revolution accelerated the pace of change in the 60s and 70s.  Here’s my quick list of the Next Big Things that I personally worked with, learned how to use, and then abandoned when something better came along:

  • 1972 – Phototypesetting via paper tape
  • 1973 – Citizens Band radio starts catching on after the oil crisis – By 1982 it has “chat” channels, its own language, etc. (no, I wasn’t a CBer)
  • 1975 – Phototypesetting via OCR
  • 1978 – 1980: Apple II; Visicalc; Wordperfect
  • 1980 – First telecopier I remember seeing – (Analog fax– a spinning drum, 3 to 6 minutes per page!)
  • 1981 – Fedex overnight letters — accelerated turnaround times and a lot less telecopying!
  • 1981 – IBM PC
  • 1981 – Mavica – first digital camera. It’s seen as a NBT, but early results are not practical
  • 1982 – Hayes 300-baud modem
  • 1982 – CD introduced; audio begins to migrate toward Digital realm
  • 1983 – Microsoft Word
  • 1983 – My client Digital was using TCP/IP communication for its internal email; it was 6 more years before Lotus brought Notes to PC users generally — the first real email within average businesses
  • 1983 – Deregulation unleashes a flood of fiber optic bandwidth for telephone data transmission
  • 1984 – Macintosh, and mouse, proportional fonts on a computer; Quark; Photoshop; desktop publishing revolution begins. I sell my printing business to focus on design and audio-visual production
  • 1985 – First cell phones start showing up … in cars only (size of a shoebox)
  • 1985 – First CCD professional video cameras make professional video cameras affordable and versatile
  • 1985 – Spent $2500 on first truly efficient fax
  • 1986 – Began using in-house dedicated computers to create vector-based digital slides, and send via TCP/IP to imaging centers digitally
  • 1986 – Kodak introduces first megapixel digital sensor camera — astronomically expensive and only high-production studios can afford
  • 1986 – First digital video medium introduced – D-1. Not initially trusted for high-end masters. Analog 1-inch lasted another decade
  • 1986 – Digital music production became a reality for music composition
  • 1988 – Purchased our own high resolution imaging camera for making slides digitally inhouse
  • 1988 – Purchased our own analog video editing system (electromechanical)
  • 1989 – First able to create slides entirely digitally
  • 1989 – Corel Draw adds another way to make slides on inexpensive workstations
  • 1989 – Microsoft introduces Power Point
  • 1990 – Non-linear (all-digital) video editing of low-res reference version becomes available (Avid and EMC2) Finishing still has to be done via analog electro-mechanical systems in expensive editing suites using D-2 mastering units
  • 1991 – First known case of Death by Powerpoint (just kidding)
  • 1992 – Digital projection supplants slides in business presentations
  • 1990 – First all-digital compositing system, the Video Toaster, becomes available. I didn’t buy one.
  • 1993 – Mosaic provides first visual user interface for tapping the information of the internet (access to libraries, databases, etc)
  • 1994 – Mosaic’s inventor launches Netscape. That’s when the internet reached my company and daily work life
  • 1994 – Caller ID finally puts phone spammers at a disadvantage
  • 1995 – Yahoo and Altavista emerge to help us search
  • 1995 – Amazon.com launches. Soon it allows readers to post negative reviews on books it sells … the shot heard round the world
  • 1996 – Palm and the idea of PDAs emerges
  • 1997 – Betacam camera package and Ikegami or Sony cameras become the standard
  • 1998 – Google starts a competing service which quickly becomes the verb for search
  • 2000 – FlashForward comes to New York, and my staff and I spend a week learning about this new platform that’s going to “transform the internet”
  • 2001 – Blackberry launches in U.S., allowing PDAs access to email
  • 2002 – Digital cameras begin to make sense for professional communication and quality-conscious amateurs
  • 2002 – Digital video (DV) supplants Betacam
  • 2002 – DVD becomes the fastest growing consumer appliance in history
  • 2003 – National Do Not Call list established, rockets to 62 million signees in 1 year
  • 2003 – Direct-to-plate printing begins to migrate to small print shops, opening doors for custom One-Off brochures
  • 2004 – Final Cut Pro becomes the dominant video editing standard, with 50% market share, and makes complete desktop digital video production possible.

For the last five years, the real action has been in hardware and software that enlarges the audience and its feeling of virtual community, as Jason documents in his article. Inventions from the iPod and iPhone to the xBox and PlayStation to the Pre and beyond become ubiquitous and inexpensive, and the Millennial generation adopts them … and then defines how all mediated digital communication must be prepared and delivered.

More and more, the tools of communication have become intuitive. Special languages, such as those required by everything from CB Radio to IM to Texting to Twitter are getting simpler. Spamming, whether via Direct Mail, Fax, Phone, IM, Email or Twitter hashtags has plagued each platform and eventually simmered down. But with every platform, the word “communication” has skewed in its meaning toward listening rather than speaking: and the power of the audience to penalize the obtuse and intrusive speaker has steadily grown.

For me what is most exciting has been the lowered threshold for response, and in spite of media overload and daily hecticity, an increase in actual participation in dialog. Yes, platforms come, get hot, and then get abandoned or at least back-burnered. Of course each becomes obsolete as soon as something more efficient at transmitting thoughts comes along. Will Twitter be superseded by something from Facebook or Google? Maybe. We’ll all know when it gets here, and we’ll all use it.

There’s never been a year in all the time I’ve been involved with influence that any serious communicator could slow down. Never been a Next Big Thing that wasn’t outclassed by Newer/Bigger Things. And never been a trend that wasn’t upstaged by the trend in line behind it. Since the Linotype hit the wall in 1970, the year before I began my career,  everything has been “soon obsolete.”

But I’m happy to say that changing with the times keeps all of us young, and protects us from obsolescence. If we care about ideas and people, we’ll always be ready for the Next Big Thing.

Inspiration – III

Enjoying some personal recharge time in San Diego, I met a couple of committed walkers who taught me some great insights into authenticity as a personal and institutional lifestyle.

I was climbing Cowles Mountain, the highest spot in San Diego county. It’s a great spot to enjoy the sunrise — an hour up, 15 minutes down. While on the way, I stopped to rest and as Del (on the right) passed with his friend, we struck up a conversation. I asked him about walking as metaphor of life, and he hit me right between the eyes with, as Kenny Rogers put it, an ace that I could keep. Del’s formula?

“I have two feet. The first is rethinking/change. The second is confidence/assertiveness.” (I’m translating from more religious terminology – repentance and faith). Del went on (I’m paraphrasing): “When I start out, I have to listen and respond to my environment. I need to rethink, based on who I impact and where I don’t measure up. Then, I am free to confidently go forward, seize opportunities, be effective at what I can do and who I am. And then comes another step of listening, responding, rethinking.”

Del’s comments inspired me with a fresh insight into both personal and institutional authenticity. Being “me”, honestly projecting who I am, is not enough if I want to be perceived as authentic — if I want to be an organic and productive enterprise. I also have to respond to “you”. I must be committed to self-improvement, and work that out through a cycle of receiving and sending, give and take, listening and expressing.

The brand of an institution does not emerge from what it repeats about itself. As John Moore said in Brand Autopsy recently, it flows from being, not “branding”.

Being “me”, personally or institutionally, involves a recognition that if a “me” has value because of my story, my unique experiences and perspective, then every “you” has value, too. If one individual is golden, a diverse community brings infinite riches.

If there were only one university it would be a boring and provincial world of ideas. But Oxford has greater value because there is Cambridge. Harvard is interesting because it shares many qualities with the other Ivies, as well as because of the nuances which differentiate it.

Each “me” becomes actualized as an authentic brand because of its response to its environment. I can attempt to assert my independence from my peers, but when I do so it only cheapens my actual brand, the authentic “me” which is not what I think of myself, but what I actually am as an organic member of a community of interrelated, interdependent organisms. My ability to project a distinct perspective, a valuable set of values, tarnishes whenever I grow sluggish in my efforts to be accountable.

In fact, I would argue that if there is one foot more important than another in Del’s metaphor, it would be the rethinking foot. By rethinking and changing as rapidly as possible to changing conditions and needs, I earn the right to assert my identity as valuable, as useful, as worth consideration. I have a valid reason to hold forth my brand. And I have a decent chance, thus, of my brand being perceived as authentic.

Thanks, Del, for your helpful insight!

Archetypical Climbers

Doing different

Thanks to John Moore for another good year-end advice column on Brand Autopsy. My three favs:

 14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

Those three attitudes have been integral to my way of thinking and working since day one, and I think it’s why I still have the same college clients today that I had in 1985.

Happy New Year!

20-20 presentation brevity equals pecha-kucha

That’s the Japanese term pronounced pa-CHOTCH-ka. It’s like the visual presentation version of haiku — a standup that limits itself to 20 slides with 20 seconds each. Learn more about it at pecha-kucha dot org. This entertaining example is by Dan Pink: Emotionally Intelligent Signage.

Authenticity on YouTube: Q and A

Here’s another Becky Roth video, this one from her personal vlog:

Authenticity

Here are my “answers”:

1. If it’s produced can it be authentic? Yes, if the assembled moments are authentically “found moments” or else “realistic moments” which communicate a truth about some aspect of the human condition.

2. Can it be authentic if green screen or other devices are used? Yes, if the visuals convey a truth with a sense of perspective and appropriate emotion.

3. Can it be authentic if it’s rehearsed? Yes … Hollywood does this all the time. Here, you start with authentic dialog, true to the character, to the situation, to human nature. Then you rehearse it until the actor can deliver it in character, in the moment, as though it was authenticly caught by a candid camera.

4. Can it be unrehearsed, unmediated, unedited, and still be inauthentic? YES! It can be a come-on, a false or extremely partial view into a person, a misrepresentation of their feelings, a statement of what they think you want to hear.

5. If it’s authentic, does it have intrinsic value? No, because it can also be authentically banal, boring, derivative, destructive, shocking, titillating, or horrifying…. and thus other than perhaps being a form of art, pretty much worthless in spite of its authenticity.

Thanks, Becky, for raising these questions. I welcome comments on these perspectives.

Authenticity on YouTube

From one of Mike Wesch’s students, Becky Roth, comes this documentary:

Near the end a college-age student asks, “As long as you know it’s fake, what difference does it make?” He seems to be in the minority: most folks want to feel like what they are watching is authentic.