You’ve spent some time getting the messaging right, haven’t you? I certainly hope so. We’ve talked about this enough. At this point, it’s fair to say we’ve pretty much exhausted the topic. And after all this work, we’ve brought the team together, invited the field in to HQ, and collected our far flung dealers from Anchorage to Andalusia to hear the word.
And we’ve done this over and over. And they still don’t seem to get it. Sure, they nod their heads and even parrot back some of what we’ve given them during role playing in the break-outs and a few have managed to repeat a bit of our carefully constructed phraseology over cocktails by the pool after the meetings. A month later, when you’re out in the field talking to them, you see no evidence of all that good will and Power Point laid out earlier. And it’s driving you nuts.
This is a big point, so let’s spend a few moments on it. Knowledge transfer in companies is an uneven art form. Very few do it well. The complexity of your industry only compounds the problem. You don’t need Power Point. You need influence. So let’s study a darker chapter — the deliberate coersion and manipulation of how a person thinks — and try to extract a positive, ethical lesson from it.
At the camp essay contest, however, things won’t go the way you thought. I’ll congratulate you publicly for your essay and ask you to read the one statement I like aloud: “I’d like to single out an absolutely exemplary essay from Comrade CMO… could you read your first sentence? Here it is in your own writing. Go ahead.” And you find yourself standing up in front of your fellow countrymen telling them you think communism is good because no one is starving. “Thank you, Comrade. Please sit down. Have a cigarette — have a whole pack! Now, everyone, let’s discuss what Comrade CMO has said. Can we all agree that no one is starving under the benificent guidance of world Communism?”
Two things have just happened. First, you will vehemenly defend your statement because you don’t want to be accused of being a communist sympathizer. “I didn’t say it was good! I said it was bad! But no one is starving, and that’s a true statement!” You’ve just fallen into a consistency trap. You won’t budge off of it, either. Your next assignment will likely be to expand upon this point, later including how people might actually be starving in the decadent economies of America, and then to point out the inequalities of racial discrimination and how they exacerbate the suffering of the masses. Inch by inch, you’ll start moving away from your deeply held convictions and towards a very sympathetic pro-communist stance. In a few months, you’ll be making videos. Or, if you serve in the British forces, in a few minutes. Sorry, had to say it.
The other thing is that those who hear you say this will, at some level, agree with you. They’ll say, “You know, I think CMO is basically a good guy… can’t believe he’s on their side… and frankly, I didn’t want to say it, but he’s right. People aren’t starving here…” And you’ve just moved someone else an inch towards radicalism.
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> Knowledge transfer is the difference between Power Point and a learning organization. The former is a kind of purgatory. The latter is a successful IPO.
> People need to assimilate information in a context that makes sense to them, in a time frame that allows for information to be absorbed meaningfully and completely, and in a way that allows them to re-interpret it in a completely unique and personal manner. It can’t be forced. You can’t put three doctors on the case and have the baby in three months no matter where you are in your revenue projections.
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Put this in your framework now. When we seek to create those subtle, internal changes in our listener’s perceptions of our messages — particularly those who might not want to be “trained”, like your channel partners — we need to focus on finding common ground:
“The Chairman of Acme Corporation is quoted as saying that he intends to eliminate all intermediaries within the next two years… the US sales office has denied this, of course, but here’s the link to the original non-English website… so tell me, in your own words, what would competing against your supplier mean to you in terms of your ability to achieve your sales forecasts? How about your ability to recruit and retain your key employees? Give me a few lines on that, if you will…”
Slowly, slowly, you build your point. It isn’t just about Power Point anymore, is it? Good luck!
Copyright (c) 2007 Stephen Denny
Great post Stephen. I agree with everything you said but wonder, what’s up with the British? They once were considered as tough as any soldiers in the world. Sounds like they could use a new CMO and a training shakeup, just the sort most businesses need.
Lewis: call it the cultural demise of what made the “Greatest Generation” the greatest. I don’t know.
This issue of knowledge transfer is a big one, though. How companies deal with knowledge — not just “information”, but the nuance and context of core messages, culture, and deep understanding — is an area that defies an easy description. This piece dealt with the assimilation process, but there’s probably a more holistic piece that I need to put forward (when I find a few minutes of free time and a medium dose of inspiration). I think I have another post or two on this subject in mind, so stay tuned and chime in.
I was talking about this very topic this morning. One can transfer files (your PowerPoint example), yet it is another issue altogether to transfer knowledge. And if the organization is not set up to be a learning environment, the loss in time and effort can put it at a severe disadvantage. This is the case especially in technology, where changing the game is among the few options to make it.
Valeria: I thought this would resonate with you — knowledge seems to get little attention compared to the more mechanical aspects of business, particularly in the technology world.
If you’re around, look up the Daily Fix tomorrow for another swing at this important point — thanks!