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Noisy Inspiration June 23, 2012

Posted by Jason in Daily PM, Writing.
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I don’t know about mere decibel level being the key to creativity, but I can personally relate to this study.  [Edit: another version here] When I write magazine or other non-technical content, I’ll often head straight for the coffee shop.  I don’t have any science to back it up, but simply being in the presence of a group helps me visualize my audience.

How would I describe this topic to that person?  What questions would I ask to determine their frame of reference and familiarity?

The background noise isn’t just noise.  It’s voices and conversations, even the TV in the corner, each with its own stream of consciousness.  Whether consciously or not, I pick up words here and there that prompt my own thoughts.

On the other hand, sometimes even being in that environment with earbuds in provides a new line of thinking that wouldn’t have appeared were I listening to the same sounds in isolation.  It’s a mix of visual and audible content that provides a fertile bed for new thoughts to connect and evolve – and it all depends on the topic I’m working on.  Technical work demands different focus, language, and tone because of the audience than does writing for the general public.

Whatever your creative outlet, a new mosaic of sensory input can definitely help to put you in the right frame of mind or get over the agony of the blank page.  I’m going to guess it’s not just about loudness, but the coffee doesn’t hurt either.

Pushing Time June 3, 2012

Posted by Jason in Daily PM, Management.
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I’m a big fan of Alan Weiss.  Whether you are an actual consultant or simply someone who runs a business with customers, his advice can yield excellent results – though to be really successful, it needs to be applied somewhat ruthlessly.

Meetings are times when you will need to decide whether to make friends with the client and not make waves OR do the right thing.  Being a consultant is hard work.  You are already being injected into an organization, from the top, without much buy-in from the people with whom you must work on a daily basis.  On top of that, you must deconstruct the client’s workday into manageable parts and work on them in order of priority.  The problem?  Until the change is accepted and habitual, you are working in transition between the old and the new.

Unfortunately, even the most open-minded clients may perceive their existing workdays as unchangeable until proven otherwise.  This means that pointless meetings and sub-par time management will cause them to postpone meetings with the consultant – if for no other reason than the consultant is an “intrusion” on the existing schedule.

Don’t let it happen.

As Weiss might say, if you let the client postpone your meeting, you are training them that your time is less valuable than theirs.  And this is unacceptable if you are to be the client’s peer and partner in solving their problems – not just a subcontractor.  You must be up to the challenge of holding everyone to their commitments.  If you can’t keep your own promise to yourself to improve the client’s condition, how can you coach someone else to keep theirs?

For more of Alan’s monthly tips, click here.