While things are not always easy in the business world, I can’t fathom what it would be like to make a living in politics. It’s fascinating as the presidential election nears to observe the lengths candidates and parties will go to in an effort to persuade voters to their platforms. Each election cycle, the methods seem to get louder and more outrageous, with listening and consensus-building a thing of the past. Can’t we all just get along and work for a common good? What’s stopping progress to that end? Recently I found a few articles that do a great job of explaining what’s going on. Interesting reading, whether you’re politically inclined or not.
- “Most arguments about politics never seem to get anywhere.” This lead sentence from How to argue better, according to science addresses the question of why intelligent, passionate people are rarely effective in convincing others to their point of view. It turns out that passion is not enough. Our moral foundations run strong and deep, and it’s difficult to move someone off a position that is congruent. This article does an excellent job of describing the moral foundations of the two major parties, and how arguments could be reframed to appeal to those of differing opinions. One timely example is regarding gun control.
- The Key to Political Persuasion echoes the same theme: “In business, everyone knows that if you want to persuade people to make a deal with you, you have to focus on what they value, not what you do.” The authors also see reframing messages as the solution, but it needs to be more than a parlor game to be successful: “Maybe reframing political arguments in terms of your audience’s morality should be viewed less as an exercise in targeted, strategic persuasion, and more as an exercise in real, substantive perspective taking.” Interesting results are reported from experiments on same-sex marriage, increased military spending and making English the official language of the U.S.
- NPR asks Is Arguing With Passion The Most Effective Way To Persuade Opponents? Nope. Reframing (again) is the solution. This brief article also gives the examples of gay marriage and English as the country’s official language.
Reframing can certainly be applied in the business arena. Too often we argue from our expert or authoritative position. How often do we think about the audiences we are trying to address and carefully articulate a rationale that more closely maps to their underlying concerns or perspective?
It’s challenging and takes time, but I believe would be more effective in the end.
Many times I have heard colleagues throughout the business world say, “Our organization needs a mobile device strategy” or ask, “Should we have a bring-you-own-device policy?” Externally, I maintain a smile or neutral outward appearance, while I’m inside I’m scratching my head (metaphorically). Why, at this stage of technological advances hasn’t this become conventional wisdom: our focus shouldn’t be on devices, it should be on accessibility.
In the long run, chasing specific mobile devices is fruitless. There will always be more, different and better options, in multiple formats and from myriad vendors. Remember the Apple Newton, PalmPilot, Grid Pad Pro and others that have come and gone? There are always features and functions of one versus the other that people will discuss and debate ad nauseam. The arguments can’t be won, because the issue, again, is not the device.
Why do I say that? Simply because we’ve been here before. I recall the transition from a mainframe-centric environment to personal computing. The mainframers thought PCs and local area networks were a joke. Not fast enough or big enough. There was an assumption that people would never want to do that work themselves or learn something that complex. The scenario played out again when the Internet and e-commerce came about. The assumption was that people want to see what they are buying and talk with someone, and there was no way they would enter their credit card number into this new-fangled Internet thingamabob.
Ultimately, what led people to move in these new directions and adopt the changes? It wasn’t the device, technology or brand—it was about gaining easy access to ways of being more productive or capable.
Let’s apply this thinking to mobile devices and look beyond the operating system, high-speed data access, robust and intuitive apps and the myriad of other embedded features. The power of mobile devices lies in how we can partner with them to make our lives easier and function more smoothly. Here are a few examples, none of which are dependent on a particular device (mobile or otherwise):
- In the professional world, if I can access my information and share it with someone in real time, I don’t need to make a note and follow up later when I get back to my office. Being honest, I’m likely to forget to do it. Now, I can send a message or share a file with a couple of taps or clicks on a keyboard.
- Is anyone old enough to remember putting a “buck slip” on an article to route it around a workgroup to make sure everyone got the information? Now, a quick forward of a link, a “like”, twitter message, or post to a social media group does the trick.
- It wasn’t all that long ago that executives had administrative assistants to manage their manual calendars. They would make phone calls to book meetings and then physically mail out agendas and packets of information ahead of time. Today, most appointments are booked by simply proposing a time and confirming with an e-appointment invitation or by using a calendar matching application (such as vyte.in, calendly.com, meetme.com or needtomeet.com)
These are minor examples of on-the-go tasks to be liberated from large monolithic or manual systems. To get more of this done, we need digital work processes and tools that can augment or replace traditional systems. We need tools that allow the infrastructure to be accessible and responsive to security and sensitive to the types of data. We need approaches that focus on enabling people and process. The good news is these tools are available and becoming more mature. There is lots of work to be done to make it happen, but there are many successful case studies.
I believe the path is not having all functions available on all devices. In the early days of tablets, many a colleague said, “We’ll just provide a virtual desktop” so users can do anything they want. Technically that is correct, but the idea of the connectivity and clunkiness of using email or Word or Excel on an iPad was not going to be readily adopted.
As a leader, the greatest contribution may be helping colleagues do their job seamlessly, regardless of their available or preferred technology. How can they quickly and easily make an internal request, find an expert, look up a piece of information, access an internal reference document, collaborate with a peer, submit an expense item, inquire on the status of a task or approve a request? If we can figure out access, a mobile device strategy is irrelevant.
P.S. This is not a new theme for me. Check out It’s Not About the Device from November 2015.
The article Predicting the Future and Exponential Growth certainly caught my attention right from the beginning, by asking, “How many times would I have to fold a sheet of paper for the height of the folded paper to reach the moon?” It goes on to build on its thesis, “Human beings have terrible intuition for exponential growth.”
Looking in a historical rearview mirror can encumber our projections of the future, especially in a period of exponential growth. The article helped articulate my perspective on why now it is more important than ever to look at the business challenges of today and the factors contributing to those challenges, then create strategy based on what the emerging future might look like. The linear progression of the past may not be that relevant.
I am currently working on a technology plan for my organization. We find ourselves with a legacy architecture that has existed for a long time. Its not that we didn’t realized it needed to change—we saw that need several years ago. The factors contributing to the need for something different include new technologies, mobile workers, need for sharing work and a greater geographical reach of our business.
Perhaps what we didn’t see was how the change curve was continuing to accelerate. There’s a tricky bias in looking back. If you don’t look far enough, it’s easy to think you haven’t changed much, as any small portion of a curve look like a relatively straight line. We have to take a longer-term approach to be able to see the magnitude of change and how it accelerates over time. Here’s where logarithms come into play. In doing so, it becomes clear that if we don’t significantly increase the pace of change, we will fall further behind.
Breaking out of a comfortable speed limit of execution is really difficult. What must change to accelerate execution? It’s not just a headcount and funding solution, it’s revisiting historical approaches, beliefs and methods. The journey has just begun.