Sunday, 18 April 2010

Misunderstanding Mehrabian

All over the internet are references to Albert Mehrabian’s most famous “discovery”, the so-called 7%-38%-55% rule.

Supposedly only 7% of communication springs from what is said, the verbal, 38% from the tone of voice, and 55% from the non-verbal – facial and body language.

But this is to miss the point completely. In situations where words, tones and non-verbals are consistent with each other, it’s clearly the words that carry the message.

It’s where there are mixed messages, where words, tones and non-verbals are incongruent, seeming to contradict each other, that non-verbals are most likely to be believed.

So for example if I say to you that I trust you, but my facial and/or body language suggest otherwise, it will be lack of trust that is the received message.

Making sure that all channels are aligned is not so easy – it trips up politicians all the time – and while we may not be conscious of what has happened when they are not, our unconscious registers the real messages loud and clear.

So often, when I facilitate innovation meetings, the lead client puts on the table one task, where the rest of the group has a completely different issue in mind. The complexity of reading bodies, faces, tones and words in situations like this can be daunting. And without a great deal of experience, young facilitators (and old) can come unstuck.

The question is: how to become skilled at reading all these signals and responding appropriately?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Lady Gaga: Innovation Princess 2010

My now eight year-old daughter was given “POP Princesses 2010” – CD and DVD – for her recent birthday. It’s been a massive hit with her and consequently I’ve had a good deal of exposure to it myself.

Many of the current diva crop are included – Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Sugababes, Britney Spears, Shakira, The Pussycat Dolls, Cheryl Cole, Girls Aloud and so on.

What has struck me most clearly, however, is what a unique performer Lady Gaga is. While most of them could easily be mistaken for each other, their sound world being so similar, Lady Gaga creates something quite different.

Thinking about this from an innovation perspective, if you want to be reasonably successful with your offering, you swim with the tide. But if you want to cause a breakthrough you take the greater risk of creating something that either may catch on, as Lady Gaga has, or may equally sink without trace.

Of course, Lady Gaga has not only made a different sound, she has given birth to a complete artistic creation, and it may well be other parts of the artwork that have caused the wave to mount up.

Will she remain a one-off? Time will tell.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Last Laugh

From Shall We Dance, 1937

Words: Ira Gershwin
Music George Gershwin

The odds were a hundred to one against me
The world thought the heights were too high to climb
But people from Missouri never incensed me
Oh, I wasn't a bit concerned
For from hist’ry I had learned
How many, many times the worm had turned

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus
When he said the world was round
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother
When they said that man could fly

They told Marconi
Wireless was a phony
It’s the same old cry
They laughed at me wanting you
Said I was reaching for the moon
But oh, you came through
Now they'll have to change their tune

They all said we never could be happy
They laughed at us and how!
But ho, ho, ho!
Who’s got the last laugh now?

They all laughed at Rockefeller center
Now they're fighting to get in
They all laughed at Whitney and his cotton gin
They all laughed at Fulton and his steamboat
Hershey and his chocolate bar

Ford and his Lizzie
Kept the laughers busy
That's how people are
They laughed at me wanting you
Said it would be, "hello, goodbye."
But oh, you came through
Now they're eating humble pie

They all said we’d never get together
Darling, let’s take a bow
For ho, ho, ho!
Who’s got the last laugh?
He, hee, hee!
Let’s at the past laugh
Ha, ha, ha!
Who’s got the last laugh now?

Does any other song have so many important messages for innovators?