The building blocks of business are processes, machines, software, and computers, but people are the underpinning. The building blocks respond in a repeatable way – same input, same output – and without judgment. People, however, not so much.
People respond differently depending on delivery – even small nuances can alter the response, and when hot buttons are pushed responses can be highly nonlinear. One day to the next, people’s responses to similar input can be markedly different. Yet we forget people are not like software or machines, and we go about our work with expectations people will respond with highly rational, highly linear, A-then-B logic. But in a battle between rational and emotional, it’s emotional by a landslide.
Thankfully, we’re not just cogs in the machine. But for the machine to run, it’s imperative to win the hearts and minds. (I feel a little silly writing this because it’s so fundamental, but it needs to be written.) And it’s hearts then minds. The heart is won by emotion, and once the emotional connection is made, the heart tells the mind to look at the situation and construct logic to fit. The heart clears the path so the mind can in good conscience come along for the ride.
Hearts are best won face-to-face, but, unfortunately today’s default mode is PowerPoint-to-face. We don’t have to like it, but it’s here to stay. And so, we must learn to win hearts, to make an emotional connection, to tell stories with PowerPoint.
To tell a story with PowerPoint, we must bring ourselves to the forefront and send PowerPoint to the back. To prevent ourselves from hiding behind our slides, take the words off and replace them with a single, large image – instead of a complex word-stuffed jumble, think framed artwork. While their faces look at the picture, tell their hearts a story. Eliminate words from the slides and the story emerges.[There’s still a place for words, but limit yourself to three words per slide, and make them big – 60 point font. And keep it under ten slides. More than that and you haven’t distilled the story in your head.]
Whatever business you’re in, you’re in the people business. Win hearts and minds follow. And so do profits.
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Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.