Got a better idea?

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The next time someone asks you for something, or proposes a plan; move into action by mentally finishing their sentence with…”unless you’ve got a better idea”.

You’ll be surprised at how often you do.

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Abstraction Distraction

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When I was a kid, I loved photography. Loved the way the camera mimicked the eye. A machine that imitates the body. Camera is to eye like computer is to brain. Composition particularly intrigued me; the way you framed a photograph defined its aesthetic and the context shaped its tone. You could explain your point of view to the ‘reader’ of the picture.

One of my favourite exercises, set by my photography teacher, Mr Brenker, was to find an ordinary still-life object and abstract it using composition – however you chose…focus, zoom, aperture settings. It was fantastic to make a beautiful, unrecognisable “new” image of something familiar. It is possible to get so close to a subject that you can’t tell what it is anymore.

And so the same phenomenon occurs when we deal with people… sometimes we’re so close that we can’t tell what we’re looking at. We can make better sense of the world by taking the photographer’s approach. Zoom in, zoom out, focus and refocus or change the change angle for a clearer understanding of the situation we are in.

Show. Don’t Tell

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Years ago I had a serious crack at writing fiction. One of my teachers, the late Laurie Clancy (pictured) was an old school Australian short story writer and critic. He was possessed of a warm, serious, funny and sad narrative tone and he had a face to match. Amongst the many insights Laurie imparted, “show me, don’t tell me” has stayed with me and remains a powerful metaphor for life beyond fiction writing.

To give your characters life, you must show their actions to your reader. By only telling, you omit evidence, you forfeit richness and create doubt about the believability of your characters. Each exposition and development must be illustrated, not simply told. Think Hamlet’s slide into madness, Ahab’s escalating vengeance against That Whale or Raskolnikov’s delusions of grandeur as he plots his Crimes, before Punishment.

We observe those characters by their actions just as our observations of those around us powerfully inform our view of them, beyond what they merely say.  Clancy’s advice is never truer than when we pursue credibility in our work. We must make action our central narrative device. Our deeds and successes must be shown, not just told.

Why I Really Hate Acronyms (WIRHA)

Acronyms are lazy. We should be making more effort to be convey rich meaning, not less.

In business, precise expression and meaning are vital.

When we compress our words into new groups to make codes, we flatten our tone, communalise ourselves and render ourselves less individual. We make our language and expression less precise and more open to interpretation.

Like a joke that needs explaining, an acronym that requires decoding is POOR (caps for emphasis, not an acronym…as far as I know) communication. It obscures meaning, distracts from the message and corrupts our purpose.

Put some grain, colour and accentuation into your language. What you say and write will be memorable because it will better convey life’s many folds.