A is for Art

Some time ago I asked an artist friend how she knew when a painting was finished. Oh, they’re never really done, she said, I am.

She explained: It isn’t about being done, its about art. The value of art comes from people interacting with it. There is no done.

My favorite yogi likes to say, “there is no perfect here.” She says the practice of yoga is more important than attaining form. Focus on form diminishes meaning.

Recently in doing research I found a long Steve Jobs talk from 1980 and was struck by the content delivered sans PowerPoint, lights, music, etc.

The power was in its meaning and the meaning was derived from the audience.

All respect to Marshall McLuhan,

Its the message, not the medium

How much would our work change if we adopted a similar view.

People waste too much time and energy scrubbing and re-scrubbing presentations, meeting plans, product updates, board notes and so on searching for perfect.

But there is no perfect here.

In an age where communication is often confused with telling we suffer in the search for perfection. Yet communication by definition requires an exchange between parties: substituting telling for talking obviates that and we end up a sad mashup of Vanna White.

Business communication involves discussion, debate, negotiation, reframing and more. There is no policy so well written it doesn’t beg interpretation. No sales launch so clear every customer gets the value proposition. No strategic plan plain enough to drive tactical development without debate.

Why the search for perfect?

Our time, our clients and our partners would be better served if we spent less energy on crafting framework and more on the quality and depth of our interactions.

Some things you can do to achieve a higher level of communication effectiveness – not perfection mind you but higher – include:

  • Return presentations to their rightful place – as aids (not features) used sparingly to drive key points
  • Follow the example of successful TED speakers: use few slides with even fewer words
  • Use the Japanese custom allowing silence in discussions enabling choiceful words and fewer of them
  • Drop scripts to focus on interests not goals in scheduled discussions with clients and customers
  • Take classes [eg., Coursera’s MOOC ] on subjects you don’t know forcing concentration on the meaning vs critiquing delivery
  • Remember the recruiter’s rule of thumb and speak less than 50% in any 1:1 interaction

All of us seek to be understood yet, as Stephen Covey told us so many years ago, perhaps its better to first understand.

There is no perfect here.

Jackson Pollock “Foghound”


2 thoughts on “A is for Art

  1. Well said, Christopher. You’ve plucked clarity from the pits of communications mire. I particularly liked this observation: “In an age where communication is often confused with telling we suffer in the search for perfection. Yet communication by definition requires an exchange between parties:…” There is a declining realization that effective communication is not about me me me but about us us us. Thanks. ~Dawn

    • Thank you so much for your thoughts Dawn. Yes, I fear we’ve ( and I’m by no means exempt) lost sight of the idea that communication is exchange. Many times it feels much more like push marketing! Thank you for taking the time to comment Dawn – I appreciate you.

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