Are you getting to the root of your problems?

On Friday night a storm came through Southeastern Wisconsin and knocked out our power like Mike Tyson, pre-face tattoo. The combination of wind, lightning, and rain was more than our grid could handle. As a result, we had a very Amish Friday night.

Five hours later, when the power was finally restored at about 11pm, our internet, cable, and phone didn’t come back on. My wife tried unplugging the modem. She tried disconnecting and reconnecting the coaxial cables. But nothing helped. So we blew out the candles and oil lamps in our little house on the prairie. We tucked Laura, Mary, and Carrie in. And Ma and I went to bed.

Saturday morning we tried rebooting the stuff again. But still nothing. I asked my neighbor Paul if his bundle was functional. (No innuendo intended.) And it was. Which meant the problem was likely at our house.

We called Spectrum, our bundle supplier, and they told us we were the only ones with the outage. They sent a re-booty signal to try to get things going. But it didn’t work.

So they lined up a tech to come find the problem. But he wouldn’t arrive until Monday at 5pm. I assumed the delay was because he was coming from another state, by horse.

Then my wife had an a-ha. She said the last time she called about a problem the Spectrum service rep told her our modem was very old and likely the issue. So Dawn called Spectrum again, and they agreed that we should swap our modem for a new one.

So I drove to downtown Milwaukee on Saturday morning to initiate a modem transplant. I came home, plugged in the fresh new Modem and router, and still nothing. I felt like Yukon Cornelius licking his pick ax while looking for gold and tasting only gravel.

So we waited out the rest of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday without our bundle of digital joy.

Monday at 5 pm we were excited to finally get our bundle back. But the tech didn’t show up. At 6 pm he still wasn’t there. In fact, he didn’t arrive until 9:30 pm.

When he entered our home he asked to see where the cable came into the house. I took him to the basement and showed him the cabley-wirey area by the fuse box that seemed to be the nerve center of our home.

The tech immediately announced, ‘Your amplifier isn’t working. It probably got zapped in the storm. I’ll go grab a new one from my truck.’

He went out to the truck, got a new amplifier, installed it, and everything came back on.

Key Takeaway

Get to the root of the problem. Know where it starts. When you discover and address the core issue, everything changes. Actions become easier and more productive. And your situation improves right away.

In business and in life we don’t always dig deep enough to get to the root issue. We find other issues to address. We address symptoms. We find secondary, easier issues to deal with. But not the root causes.

Surround yourself with people who are great problem solvers. Find people who think scientifically, and can go beyond the obvious issues to find the underlying causes. Learn how they analyze and diagnose root problems. Adopt their methods. And your problem-solving value will increase dramatically.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why it is so valuable to wonder as you wander.

In 2005 I spent a week working in Iceland and never saw the sun go down. While in the land of the ice and snow (with the midnight sun where the hot springs flow), I enjoyed a few closeup experiences with icebergs. In fact, one day we filmed my friend Thor Kjartanson waterskiing among freshly-calved icebergs. Which made Thor the most badass Viking since Fran Tarkenton.

Icebergs are magical creations. They are beautiful. Like floating sculptures. Icebergs are always moving and always transforming. However, as magnificent as one of these floating masses of Titanic-sinking ice art is to look at, roughly 90 percent of an iceberg is below the surface, and thus goes unseen.

Below The Surface

I feel like an iceberg. On a typical day, 90% of my activity is below the surface and goes unseen. Because my mind is always going somewhere. I am always thinking, wondering, and building in my brain.

Mental Jogging

One of my favorite hobbies is mental jogging. I simply start to think about anything I am interested in. Then I quickly jump from topic to topic and idea to idea, noting the connective tissue between each. It’s an enjoyable and useful form of mental parkour. (If you don’t know what parkour is check out this video explanation and the hilarious twist on the sport from The Office.)

Valuable Thinking

I spend a large percentage of my time thinking. But I am not just thinking about things I need to do or remember. I am exploring, creating, ideating and wondering as I wander. Like Fred Savage.

But despite the millions of miles of mental jogging that I have logged, only recently have I ever thought that not everyone does this. Which I think is a form of thinking bias I didn’t think I had.

I can jump into full ideation and creation mode, anywhere, anytime. I have made a career out of it. Heck, I have created two businesses out of it, including my t-shirt business, Adam & Sleeve, and my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry.

This person has magical feet that leave the footprints of many people.

Get Quiet And Get Thinking

I can think of new ideas, adventures, inventions and connections all day long. You can too. But do you? It simply requires a little quiet spot in your day. You can find time while you drive, or shower or lie in bed. Don’t fill your quiet moments with digital distractions. Allow yourself a little boredom, and let your thinking fill the void.

Thinking is the most valuable activity you can do.

Here are 14 Reasons Why:

  1. Thinking is what creates new ideas.
  2. Thinking is where winning strategies are born.
  3. Thinking leads to paradigm-shifting innovations.
  4. Thinking is where entertainment comes from.
  5. Thinking solves problems.
  6. Thinking creates opportunities.
  7. Thinking creates advantages and helps reveal them.
  8. Thinking changes perceptions and outlooks.
  9. Thinking inoculates you from a sense of helplessness
  10. Thinking provides freedom.
  11. Thinking creates adventure.
  12. Thinking turns the tables
  13. Thinking develops habits
  14. Thinking can give your courage, and heart, and a brain, and helps you find a lift back home.

Key Takeaway:

Thinking is the seed from which all great realities are born. To improve both your situation and your outlook, improve your thinking. Make a habit of thinking, and your thinking habit will make you.

*If you know someone who you think would benefit from this message, please share it with them.

It’s time to talk less and listen more.

I am always trying to create a newer, better version of myself. Soon after I began my professional career I realized that there are a lot of smart, talented people on this planet. To catch up to the impressive people I admired most I was going to have to do my homework. So I began studying and learning, again. Not in a structured school program. But in a self-directed, movie montage kind of way.

Communications Skillz.

Like most people who are into self-improvement, I have focused heavily on communication skills: public speaking, presentation skills, selling skills. But the deeper I got into this game Prince called, Life, I realized that most people, including me, spend too much time on the wrong side of the equation.

The most effective and important communication skill is not speaking. It’s listening.

George Floyd

George Floyd told the police officers arresting him that they were killing him. When you saw the video you heard it right? Because you were listening. Now, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, we should all be listening more. We are all being called to create a better world. A world where police brutality stops. Where everyone has safety, freedom, and equal access to opportunities. But creating a better world starts with each of us becoming better versions of ourselves.

Listening

Listening is where all improvement starts. It is only through listening that we understand the problems that we need to solved. It is how we hear what isn’t said (don’t think about this too hard or it sounds really stupid).

Through listening, we learn about other people. We learn about their history, their values, their fears, their styles, and their quirks. Which allows for deeper, more meaningful, more valuable relationships.

Yet when was the last time you heard about someone going to a class on listening? So here is a free mini-class on listening that takes 2 minutes to complete. But it is sure to make you a better, bigger-eared version of yourself.

6 Keys To Improving Your Listening Skills.

1. Close your mouth.

We are often so compelled to talk that we stop listening. If you want to be a great listener you have to silence your own impulses. And focus on your role as a listener. This means you are not providing answers, or solutions or opinions. You are harvesting. Not planting. Know what season it is. Bring the right equipment to the field.

2. Listen Competitively.

Try to be really good at listening. You already know the little things you have to do to be a great listener. We learned them by playing Simon Says when we were kids. Look at the person talking. Give the person speaking your full attention. Do this as if your relationships, influence and earning potential depend on it. Because they do.

3. Keep your partner lubricated.

I don’t mean with alcohol or Vaseline. With affirmations. And demonstrated interest. Lean in. Show you care. You will keep others flowing with information. Yet without the backlash that comes with waterboarding.

4. Listen with your Spidey Sense.

Go beyond the words that are said. Note the tone. The emotion. Those things are like limps, signaling that something deeper is wrong. Or they could signal that someone is in a good mood that exceeds the norm for the current situation. Maybe they just got engaged. Or maybe they are on drugs. You should know the difference.

5.  Play back, Jack.

The curtain call of any good listening session is the summary of what you heard. The highlight, simplified conclusion, or takeaway that demonstrates that you really heard what was said.  Show that you know what was implied and what is important. Do this and you will always leave a conversation with more personal equity.

6. Lock up the valuables.

The most important listening skill is keeping the private stuff private. You have to know which things you heard were intended for you alone. And don’t talk about them. When people know that you are trustworthy they tell you more. You become an important confidante. An insider. It’s like being sponge-worthy.

Key Takeaway

Improve your listening and everything else will improve. Better relationships with your friends, family and co-workers. Better networking. And better solutions to problems. The Lord knows we need better solutions to our problems right now.

If you have more tips, tricks and techniques for better listening I would love to hear from you.

It’s a great time for you to take more showers.

There are a lot of activities you can’t do right now. In fact, most things outside your home that involve anyone other than a cashier, pharmacist, healthcare worker or delivery professional are currently off the table. At the same time, many of the hard working among us have been prohibited from working. Which creates another level of challenges.

Time to Think

When you can’t take action, the most valuable thing you can do is think. I have spent my entire career as a professional creative thinker. I’ve worked through thousands of business challenges of all sizes and shapes (except for a tiny rhombic dodecahedron). And the great solutions always come during times of deep, focused thinking.

And there is no place to think like the shower. It’s a perfect environment to relax, clear your head and do the type of thinking that makes a real difference. The type of thinking that solves problems, sparks valuable new ideas, and helps you rebalance again. All while controlling your dandruff. #multitasking

The Thinking Prescription

  • Find some time each day for a long hot shower.
  • Make sure there is no music or sound from a TV.
  • Shower by yourself. (Otherwise you’ll be thinking other thoughts.)
  • Relax. And think of what you can do right now. For yourself, your community, your clients, your family or friends.
  • Think about what you can do tomorrow.
  • Think of the opportunities.
  • Work through your work challenges
  • Think bigger than you think you should.

You’re sure to come out with a clear head and new ideas. Oh, and you’ll also be clean. And right now that’s more valuable than ever.

Key Takeaway

The 2 most valuable ingredients of success are strong actions and strong thinking. When you can’t act, think. It will help you solve problems and create a plan of action. Thinking  unlocks doors. And it reminds you, in case you forgot, that you are still in control.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

The problem solving magic of the 3rd option.

I am a professional creative thinker. My job is to come up with ideas, and then bring those ideas to life. Which sounds easy, and fun. Which it is. But there is one major obstacle that often stands in the way of professional creatives: clients. You see, clients also have ideas. And their ideas are sometimes different than yours. And sometimes your clients’ ideas are good. Like, really good.

The Creative Conundrum

So what are you supposed to do when clients go all rogue on you and have their own ideas and opinions? After all, we are hired to be the idea people, right? Aren’t the clients supposed to listen to us? To trust us and our superior ideation abilities?

woman performing on stage
A creative super-human, looking all creative and photographable.

Learning From Experience

I have faced this issue a million brazilian fo-fillion times in my career. I have had to contend with client-generated ideas from the time I was a young copywriter until I opened  The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I launched in 2016. With over 20 years of thinkering experience under my belt, I have found that there are 3 ways you can handle the client-creative idea clash.

The 3 Alternatives

1. Give Up. You don’t have to stand up for your ideas.  In fact, agencies often surrender immediately when a client proclaims their own idea. Or asks for a change. Or sneezes. This is because there are a lot of people who don’t believe in their ideas enough to stand up for them.

I hate this. It devalues the original creative idea. Which should have been presented for a very good reason. (You did have a very good reason didn’t you?) By simply surrendering to your client’s idea you are suddenly just a production person on behalf of your client. Don’t be that guy. And don’t be that gal.

2. Don’t Budge. This is the option I encourage most professional creatives to choose. Stand your ground. Believe unwaveringly in your idea. Fall on your sword. In fact, I’ll throw you on your sword if you like.

The reason I want you to embrace this idea so strongly is because it is a fast way to lose clients. And I would love to slip in and pick up your clients as you are getting thrown out a second story window.

3. Find A New, Better Option. If the client isn’t fully satisfied with your idea or execution it is because they still have a perceived unmet need. They are offering an idea that helps meet that need or concern. Sometimes their suggestion will be perfect. And a good creative should recognize this. But if the solution isn’t perfect, keep exploring. The greatest creative solution is the one that accommodates for the dreams and desires of both the client and agency. (Dreams and Desires is also the title of the trashy romance novel I’m now inspired to write.)

beach blue sky cheerful clouds

Pushing for that perfect third option has 5 positive benefits.

1. It demonstrates that you want what is best for the project. And not just what the client requested.

2. It shows you are not simply married to your own idea. (Which also means no one gets to throw idea rice at your idea wedding.)

3. It certifies you as an avid problem solver. Clients love a partner who will push further to make everyone happy.

4. It strengthens your skills. It’s like adding more weight to the bar at the gym. Throw more challenges on the problem, add more constraints, and see if you can still Houdini out.

5. It reveals your work ethic. In the workplace your work ethic translates to character and trust and all manner of positive attributes.

Key Takeaway

Everyone loves a problem solver. This is true in business and in your personal life. But problem solving doesn’t mean giving up on your idea. And it doesn’t mean winning at all costs. It means finding a solution for every challenge. Always push for the win-win solution. Develop a reputation for helping everyone get to the best answer. It is the best way to get many more problems to solve.

If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them. 

I have a strange problem I don’t know how to solve. And I want your help.

There are some business problems they don’t teach you how to solve in business school.  They are too odd and too unlikely to happen to spend time discussing. So today, I am going to serve up an odd, real-life scenario to see how you would respond. Because I am not sure what the right answer is. Or even if there is a right answer. So let’s try to figure this out together.

The Setup

Last night, just before dinner, I went into the bathroom at my home to wash my hands. As I was washing I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed a problem. My left eyeball was completely red. Not as if it was irritated. Or as if I had taken a red eye flight. It was red like a blood vessel had burst in my eye. And it looked disgusting. Like an eye I never want to make eye contact with. Like ever.

When I returned to the table and shared my problem with my family the reaction was not good. My 11-year old son thought I looked hideous and demanded that I not look at him again. My 8-year old son was fascinated, the way a boy may be fascinated by road kill. My 13-year old daughter was greatly concerned for me. (Everyone should have a daughter). And wife Dawn immediately asked if I had any important client meetings this week. The answer was yes.

The Problem

I have an important meeting with a brand new client that is scheduled to start 24 hours from now. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, was just awarded a significant project with this client after an agency review. During the review process we met 3 members of the marketing and sales team, whom we liked very, very, very much. #IThinkTheyWillReadThis

The upcoming meeting is for us to meet the client’s executive team, a team we will be working closely with throughout this project. The purpose of the meeting is to introduce ourselves and take them through the proposal with our color commentary.

The most important outcome from this meeting is for us to make a great first impression on our new client’s senior team. That’s hard to do when you have a horror film eye ball. What makes this worse is that I have had a burst blood vessel in my eye before. It was many years ago. During that red period I had multiple client meetings. And my clients were undeniably grossed out by my gore eye. Sorry clients.

Seeking a Solution

This is where I need your help figuring out what I should do next. There are a couple of details you should know before offering your advice. 1. This problem usually takes 5 to 7 days to clear up. There are only 2 people from my team scheduled to attend this meeting, Just me and the account leader. There was a 3rd member of our team who would have attended if she wasn’t on vacation in Europe. It’s amazing the lengths some people will go to in order to avoid seeing my eye.

The Options As I See Them (through my bloody eye).

  1. Reveal the problem and ask to reschedule the meeting for 1 week later.
  2. Send the account leader alone.
  3. Proceed as if there was no problem.
  4. Make the meeting a phone call or video conference.
  5. Attend the meeting, but wear sunglasses
  6. Attend the meeting but wear an eye patch (Arrrr Matey!)
  7. Attend the meeting but wear a welder’s mask.
  8. Attend the meeting but avoid all eye contact, like Rain Man.
  9. Call the client, explain the situation, and ask them how they want to proceed.

What would you do?

Which of the options do you think I should choose? Or do you have a good solution that is not on the list? I appreciate you sharing your opinion. If you know a wise owl who-who offers good advice, please pass this along to them too. Me and my eye look forward to hearing from you.

How our agency overcame a Biggie Smalls experience.

It was the rapper Notorious B.I.G. who once penned that famous American quote: ‘Mo Money. Mo Problems.’ In 2018 I learned Biggie was right. Because as my young advertising and idea agency was growing at an exciting pace, we also faced mo money problems. Or was it less money problems? Maybe it depends on whether you’re more East Coast or more West Coast.

Go With The Cashflow

In 2018 The Weaponry, faced a cash flow problem. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been warned. My posse of entrepreneurial homies, including Dan Richards of Global Rescue and Jeff Hilimire of Dragon Army, warned me that as you work with larger and larger clients they will use their financial muscle to get longer and longer payment terms. So instead of our standard 30-day terms, new clients began requesting, pushing for or demanding 45, 60 and even 90-day terms. #WhatWouldSugeKnightDo?

The 60 and 90-day terms put growing businesses like mine in a conundrum. Obviously we want to work with the biggest and best companies in the world. The problem is that while we wait to get paid for the work we have completed, we still have to pay the Weapons, vendors and freelancers who work for us. Which means that like a leaky bucket, more money is leaving the system than coming in. #DearLizaDearLiza

the-notorious-big-biggie-smalls-5-1400684427-view-1

Big Poppa

By June of 2018 we had been in business for 2 years. We could clearly feel the momentum build. There was sharp rise in the demand for our work. But with all the new work, longer payment terms, and invoices that seemed to have taken the slow boat to PayMe Town, we started carrying between $500,000 and $700,000 in our monthly accounts receivable stack.

For a business that bootstrapped its way into being just 24 months earlier this was an interesting turn of events. It is nice to be owed that kind of money. But cash is the life blood of a business. And there were serious demands on our blood supply.

We were always able to pay our salaries and all of our bills. But the depleted cash on hand meant that we weren’t able to invest in our own growth. We had started looking at space for our Columbus office in June, then hit pause on our plans to sign a lease in order give ourselves some breathing room. We waited on transitioning some of our freelance help to full-fledged Weapons. And we postponed the company offsite meeting in Monaco.

unnamed-2

It Was All A Dream.

When I shared our mounting money challenge with our team, they once again stepped up to solve the problem. Simon Harper, one of our outstanding account directors, shared how we could adjust our invoice timing to make sure we were paid by our clients sooner. Other account leads also contacted their client contacts about the outstanding bills. Which helped get the money ball rolling.

Our accountant, slash bookkeeper, slash egg dealer, Sally Bretsch, recommended another adjustment to our billing process that would ensure that our invoices got into our clients’ accounts payable systems faster, with greater accountability. Which is either totally meta or just a nice word play (Did I mention I used to read Word UP! magazine?)

From Negative To Positive (And it’s all good.)

With these team-driven enhancements in place, suddenly we dramatically decreased the turnaround time between work performed and payments received. We had our own Black Friday moment, when suddenly, following months of increased billing, but decreased cashflow, we started seeing the fruits of our labor manifest in our bank account.

Key Takeaway

Business is a team sport. As an entrepreneur, leader or department head, it’s important to understand that your team will find ways to solve problems and improve performance faster, and in better ways than you would be able to unearth on your own. Share information with your team. Make them part of the solution. If you’re thinking about starting a business, surround yourself with a strong crew who knows more about their specialties than you do. Then give them a mic and let them flow. That’s how small teams make big things happen.

Do you really want serenity? Or do you want to solve problems?

My time is my most precious asset. Not because my time is any more important than anyone else’s. It is certainly not. Just as Steve Miller’s time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future, I know that my finite time on Earth is steadily slipping away too. Like sand through an hourglass. Literally. Yet, it is this scarcity of time that is the major motivating force in my life.

My Increasing Impatience

More and more, I find myself interrupting others as they recount their disappointments in the past. I often crash pity parties to point out that time spent dwelling on the things that went wrong will not make them go right.

Spending Your Time Wisely

I am a problem solver, both by nature and by profession. As an entrepreneur and as a professional creative thinker, I view the limitations of any given situation simply as the rules that govern the solution. I have no time to relive something that went wrong in the past. All I care about is what I can do moving forward.

The Serenity Prayer

I find great value in the Serenity Prayer. If you don’t know it, or don’t know it by name, here it is:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  –Reinhold Niebuhr

Serenity Now!

Many see this statement as a path to Serenity. But I would have named this The Problem Solver’s Prayer. Because what Reinhold is praying for is the essence of problem solving.

Problem solving is like conducting a science experiment. To find a great solution to the challenges you face, you must accept the constants, and vary the variables until you get the results you are looking for.

Focus On The Possible

I don’t spend any time lamenting the constants. I accept the things I cannot change. I pour all of my time, energy and thought into the things I can change. You could say I focus on the positive. But I say I focus on the possible. Mine is not a rose-colored glasses outlook. I focus on reality. Because reality is full of positive possibilities.

Key Takeaway

Memorize the Serenity Prayer. Accept the cold hard realities of life. And spend all of your valuable, and constantly diminishing time focusing on the amazing opportunities and possibilities that exist anyway.

Why Wheel Of Fortune is the perfect interview game.

I like watching Wheel of Fortune. It’s not because of Pat Sajak’s perma-tan, perfect hair or witty commentary. And it’s not because of Vanna White and her seemingly irreplaceable skills at touching lighted rectangles. Although 30 years ago that was a compelling draw.

The best part about Wheel of Fortune is trying to solve the puzzles. In case you hadn’t noticed, life is one big puzzle. As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am constantly trying to solve client problems. That’s why I am hunting for world-class problem solvers the way Imelda Marcos hunted for footwear.

The Interview

Lately I’ve been thinking about introducing WOF into the interview process. Because the game show offers valuable insights into a candidate’s approach to solving real world puzzles. Not only is this kind of problem solving valuable in marketing, it translates to success in business, finance, medicine, auto repair, courtship and just about every career Sally Struthers might mention.

The 3 kinds of contestants on The Wheel of Fortune.

Early Solvers.

My WOF heroes are the people who solve the puzzle in the least amount of time with the  least amount of information. I’m always impressed by those who find the answer well before I do. They are the see-ers of the unseen. These people are clever, insightful and daring. You should hire as many of these types as you can get your hands on (in an HR appropriate way).

Middle Solvers

The majority of the puzzle solvers take a crack at the answer somewhere in the middle of the fill. They offer an answer once many letters are exposed, and the puzzle is relatively easy to solve. At this point the viewer at home either has the answer or has several of the words figured out, but still fails to see a couple of un-purchased vowels. These are your average people. If you fill your organization with these average people you can build an average company. I would rather go bankrupt.

The Reader

At the tail end of the spectrum are the readers. These are the people who don’t attempt to solve the puzzle until every letter is filled in, and they can literally read the entire answer. These are the types that only bet on a sure thing. They are the belt and suspenders types. But Wheel Of Fortune favors the bold.

Please don’t be the reader. When you wait until the answer is obvious you have lost all competitive advantage. Because when there is no risk there is no reward.

Key Takeaway

The further upstream you can solve a problem the move valuable you are. There is a significant market for those who can see the unseen, forecast a trend, or alert a team to an opportunity or catastrophe hiding in the shadows.

In business development, you can’t wait until the account you want goes into review and invites you and every Tom, Dick and Mary to pitch. To offer value you have to be able to solve a problem before the answer is flashing in the middle of Times Square. Or before Vanna has flipped her final consonant.

Who helps you see the invisible?

Business is hard. Unlike the natural world of plants, animals, water and minerals, business is not visible. Business is an abstract concept. Sure, a business is officially formed when you file articles of incorporation. But those are just documents. You don’t invite clients to come and look at your filings. You can’t recruit great talent by showing them your government forms. Except maybe the lawyers. God help the lawyers.

Building, focusing and polishing a great business is a conceptual task. It requires things like missions and visions. It requires strategy, positioning and branding. You can’t just throw these items in your cart at Office Depot. You have to create them. You have to pull them out of the ether (or out of your butt), and breathe life into them to make them real.

Whose job is that?

I work with clients on challenges like this every week. I don’t expect our clients to have all the answers. Quite the opposite. I expect them to have a problem that needs to be solved. I expect them to have questions. I expect them to be a little lost and confused. You know, the way you felt on the first day of high school.

Making the invisible visible.

The greatest value my business offers is our ability to see the unseen. We paint pictures and draw maps so that others can see too. We build structure, we articulate thoughts and create unifying stories. The more answers we find the more valuable we become. But the kind of answers we are looking for can’t be googled. We have to create them ourselves.

The Paradox

Many would-be-collaborators want their clients to clearly articulate what they are looking for. The problem is, clients don’t often know what they are looking for. In fact, that’s why they need to hire outside help in the first place.

 IWKIWISI

Professionals often loathe IWKIWISI clients. Those are the people who say I Will Know It When I See It. They can’t tell you exactly what they want. They can’t offer you a great brief. They can’t narrow the options down to 1 or 2.  They need someone else to find the perfect option for them.

I love these types. They need the most help. Like a Sudoku puzzle with very few initial clues, they offer the greatest challenge. But when you solve those most difficult of puzzles, you experience the most satisfying rewards.

Think of young Helen Keller, who couldn’t see or hear. Then along came Anne Sullivan, who developed a system to teach the blind and deaf to learn language and communicate. She unlocked and unleashed the infinite power in Helen Keller’s mind. Who enjoyed the greatest reward as a result, Helen or Anne?

If you have the kind of skills to make the invisible visible or to make the intangible tangible, you can help transform organizations, people and places. If you need those type of people, take comfort in knowing they are out there. And someone knows where you should look to find them.