Influential uncertainty

Demonstrate uncertainty and structure brainstorming

Two pieces of insight struck me this week:

  • a fresh take on sometimes being open about your uncertainty
  • make brainsteering, not brainstorming sessions

Dare to be uncertain

A podcast by Harvard Business Review this week puzzled me: Experts are more persuasive when they’re less certain. Zakary Tormala, a Stanford professor in marketing, explained how his team had researched the power of experts expressing uncertainty in certain contexts. It was an eyeopening experience.

Tormala claims that experts can engage their listeners by expressing uncertainty rather than the ‘I know it all’ attitude. The research had demonstrated that people being exposed to experts opening up for pondering and hesitation actually paid more attention, became more engaged and trusted the expert more. Why? Because they were not expecting an expert to do so. They were surprised, the different attitude represented a fresh contrast to conventional behaviour.

Brainsteering is focused brainstorming, not ranting

I must confess that I have initiated my share of brainstorming sessions that did not materialise into more than endless post-it notes on a wall or a flip chart ending up in the bin afterwards. Apologies.

Therefore I was delighted to come across McKinsey Quarterly’s post on brainsteering: Seven steps to better brainstorming. The main point in the article is that simply by posing more focused questions a huge improvement in the output quality is likely to happen.

Instead of cheering a team into brainstorming by enthusiastically claiming ‘anything goes!’ or ‘the more questions, the better!’, rather make it easy: Strip it down to a few sharp and well articulated questions. Then make small teams work on one question (yep, that is one as in ‘1’) for 30 minutes. That’ll get some real and valuable output from a team’s work on a question.

For a more detailed how-to-do-it description, follow the steps in the article linked above.

Photo: Cop Call / Originally uploaded by antonkawasaki

Influential uncertainty

Feet on the ground in Uninor, India

Seizing telecom market share in India

A couple of weeks ago I spent ten days training my colleagues in Uninor in facilitation skills. The company is a telecom operator in India partly owned by Telenor.

Great fun and challenging

I realise that preparing and running good meetings can be challenging. Entering into a business unit from the head quarter situated far away can be tricky. Hopefully we got some of our messages across. The groups of HR and Learning professionals were eager learners.

All for the customer
At the end of the stay I was eager to leave the class room and feel the vibe of the sales’ people. Thus, my colleague and me joined two of the sales’ managers and drove into the slum areas of Mumbai. Brilliant!

The picture above shows one of Uninor’s crucial stakeholders in the Indian market. He is a shopowner in the vibrant slums of Mumbai. Every time he convinces a customer to invest some rupis in the Uninor sim card instead of competitors’ sim, he helps us develop and build our brand as a preferred partner for people of the streets.

That’s how we can make clients happy and share holders content.

Feet on the ground in Uninor, India

Shantaram: Happy reading

A deliciously fresh novel about India. The story allows me as an outsider a peek inside a different world.

I guess this blog post has not got anything to do with the topic of this blog. Nevertheless, here is a few words about a wondeful novel I am reading this summer: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. He has composed a fantastic story about an Australian on the run from a prison break. Apparently the novel is quite a lot an autobiographical story about his own flight from prison in 1980 and all that followed afterwards.

Roberts’ tale is a wonderful piece about the dramas of our lives and how to keep an eye on the important aspects of life. It is also a story about taking control of your situation and make the best out of it. The protagonist of the novel restarts his life with positive thinking when arriving in Indian soil, still on the run.

The book is a joy ride due to its gallery of colourful characters and sudden turns.

Shantaram: Happy reading


Tell a story, make a drawing.

In 2005 I spent a year in Madrid studying for an MA degree in Strategic Human Resources. I still view it as one of the smartest investment I have done.

In order to get up to speed in Spanish proficiency I spent a couple of months on a language course before starting the MA programme. Change of location allowed me to spend time on things I normally would not do, like for instance drawing stuff. I spend mornings in the classroom learning Spanish verbs and grammars. In the afternoons I could go to the beach and relax or hang out with fellow language course students.

One of those afternoons I created a story in my head which I spent the next couple of afternoons writing and skethching.

I didn’t have a plan for the story when I started drawing it. Somewhere down the road I decided to mail it to the five year old daughter of a friend of mine. A few months ago I borrowed the book and posted parts of it on my Flickr photo sharing site.

Here’s an extract of the original story. Text is in Norwegian. The link opens a new window with a slideshow.