Sidelines that support growth

sidestreet art

Chicago Ave Graffiti

Day 21 of 21 Days of leveling up

“What do you know about Columbus?,” I casually asked. My new acquaintance turned her ear toward me, raised an eyebrow and said: “Do you mean the City?” Note, we were on a rooftop in the summer at a business network event, and I just met the woman.

Another new acquaintance at the same event responded: “Didn’t he sail the ocean blue in 1492?”

Of course, both of these answers pleased me but for very different reasons. Each of their answers added data to two very different problems. The ambiguous question was by design, a live experience and skill demonstration. I knew what I knew and wanted to test it. At the time I began these experiments I wondered whether I had the right cue or reference story.

On reflection, I realized that these activities were not helpful in building my business and identifying clients, or problems I could help solve. What I did was and is a classic rookie mistake–jumping in to do without much of a plan to connect what you learn to a larger objective. I had NO strategy, I had a tactic. I had no objective, and only got data. I happily captured pixels without a frame.

My consulting practice was a work in progress. I’ve always loved learning and research into why something does or doesn’t work, which makes me comfortable picking apart a process. It also means I come up short on specifying an industry, or the characteristics of a good client. My professional track record solves emergent types of problems which makes predefining them hard.
For example, I understood how stories are powerful and helpful–e.g. they aid memory and improve listening. Oddly, people will understand the same story independent of the language they hear, remember or can recall.

Professionally I didn’t know how to put my skills, strengths, and knowledge of these elements together for the benefit of a client who is facing real problems. After years of practice and lots of failures, I learned how to get out of my own way.

Move aside

When given a task few people value instruction–someone telling them how to do things, others may find value in learning the “why” that makes a method, or technique useful. As both an educator and a consultant my knowledge and ego tend to lead rather than listen.

When you design experiences, the hardest part is balancing self-discovery, self-control by removing all the friction that prevents success. Are the features there to guide or limit your audience and protect the provider or do they simplify and reward your audience for knowing what to do?

Experiences are deeply personal, uniquely rooted in prior knowledge, skills, and familiarity with the situation. Designing learning experiences requires understanding of what is generally known without presuming. The best way to proceed is to ask.

Stories are a universal lightning rod for experience, as they automatically trigger human’s selective attention. The human brain is wired for story and so we naturally tune in. Could I make this trigger work in reverse?

Did you notice what just happened in that last reveal? Pursuing my question as I did met a personal need while neglecting a professional need–helping me build my consulting practice. My personal burning question failed to find real problems facing potential clients.

The first aha

When Howard Gardner published work on multiple intelligences, he also exploded multiple myths about the nature of learning. Yes, there’s a sequence but it doesn’t equate to the sum of the parts and most certainly can’t be worked or backed out easily. We confuse learning and training all the time, give credit for modest proficiency or improvement without understanding practice very well.

In business, there are tasks, objectives, marks, and measures of achievement. We break the work down often working backward from a specific, measurable realizable time table. Attention to detail, the little things often make the biggest differences.

In sports, learning how to move your body and or an object forward requires rapid progression through a sequence of steps. The more proficient a player, the more practiced their moves and thus the more automatic and instinctive their response.

What about formulating ideas? When I first conceived of framestretching, I considered it a tool that I carried in a grab bag I brought to clients. While playing out with other people various story tales, different experiences and situations I noticed little things. Afterward, I’d reflect some but it’s been another process-the writing about it from a particularly pointed perch–an outside prompt that I’ve had greater discoveries.

Whether you did or didn’t follow my posts regularly for the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to unpack what it means to level up. In the course of writing in and around the topic in response to external prompts, I polished my lens and brought into focus how central framestretching is to my practice, and how my encounters and tests have also helped me level up. Only by overcoming my hesitancy to fully own it, could I push myself out of my own way.

Stay tuned there’s always more to share.


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