The iNCiTE! Blog Turns 1! (and a half)
In August, the “2 Minute iNCiTE!” celebrated its first birthday. The purpose of a bi-weekly blog was to force myself into the discipline of researching and writing about my professional passion namely, influencing, persuading and communicating change.
At first, I had no particular audience in mind but soon began targeting people who had either participated in our training programs or who had expressed an interest in the work we do. As the list of subscribers grew, I was pleasantly surprised by both your engagement and your generous feedback. A huge thanks to you all. In this, the last post of 2019, I reflect on some of the highlights and learnings of the past 18 months:
Shortly after launching the blog in August 2018, I had the amazing privilege of coaching a speaker for Cape Town’s TEDx event. Most speeches and presentations we hear nowadays fall foul of what Nancy Duarte refers to as our “first draft culture”. Not so with TEDx where it can take up to 100 hours to compile an 18-minute talk. At least 10 hours of this prep is spent understanding your audience, shaping your big idea and crafting a golden thread. It’s no wonder that some speakers have described their first appearance on TED's famous "red dot" as the most terrifying experience of their lives. It was harrowing enough just being a coach!
In October 2018, I was honoured to interview one of Africa’s most courageous political activists. An unflinching critic of tyranny in Zimbabwe, Evan Mawarire has been arrested more times than most of us have voted and in 2016 was tried for treason. Evan’s success as a communicator is a blend of creativity, spontaneity and fanatical commitment to his craft. You can read more about him here. Nearly a year after I interviewed Evan, I wrote a piece on the unique communication style of British political upstart Rory Stewart. Whether confronting tyranny in Zimbabwe or mediocrity in Whitehall, the two men have a remarkably similar approach to communication. In this regard, Mawarire speaks for them both: “If we cannot cause the politicians to change then we must inspire the citizens to be bold - I hope I’ve played my part in awakening people to look for freedom”.
Thankfully, iNCiTE! grew into more than just a bi-weekly blog. Amongst other undertakings, I joined a multi-disciplinary team (mostly comprising tech and financial gurus) to help plan and communicate groundbreaking tech transformation in one of SA’s biggest telcos. Since March 2019, many of my posts - whether unconsciously or otherwise - set out to explore the challenges associated with this task. A simple headline about change emerged: Sometimes we overcomplicate its communication. Sometimes we under-communicate it. More often than not, we do both.
We, humans, are dab hands at complicating critical communication, a tendency I explored In “The one thing you need to know”, and “Never Bury the lead”. Lessons from the Vietnam War, electronics retailer Best Buy, the Lincoln assassination and America’s greatest scientific own goal were profound reminders that we sometimes have to dig deep, in the words of Dan Heath, to wrestle simplicity out of complexity. One of the main reasons we complicate our messaging is due to what psychologist Stephen Pinker calls “The Curse of Knowledge” - a tendency to become so star-stuck with our own expertise that we can’t possibly imagine what it’s like NOT to know anything about the subject. For more on the curse as well as ways of combating it, click here. Sometimes we complicate our message not through an excess of knowledge but through an excess of BS. In Dilbert: The Horrifying Truth, I explored what has become, in the words of Steven Poole, as a “spirit-sapping indignity that relentlessly batters the ears of the modern office worker”. Business BS short-circuits deep thought and reflection, keeps out dissenting voices and ultimately misrepresents reality. As writer Andre Spicer points out, society needs “an anti BS movement dedicated to rooting out empty language from government, popular culture, the private sector, education and our private lives”.
Like 18 holes of golf, change is a dynamic process, filled with an endless variety of hazards and lies. Some of these are easy to foresee, others come from out of the blue. Figuratively, many managers settle for the “driving range” assuming that a blistering tee drive will be enough to trigger and sustain transformation. Not so. Before the game even begins, followers need to know what lies ahead. What are the unique hazards? What aspect of their game will it call for? Where will they be stretched? I wrote three posts that explored what it means to lead change. They were inspired by Christopher Vogler, one of Hollywood’s pre-eminent script consultants whose book “The Writers Journey” provides piercing insights into how people encounter, digest and pursue change. You can read all about it here, here, and here.
That's about it. A big thanks again to all my loyal readers. A very happy Christmas to you all. Looking forward to seeing you in 2020.