Using a Visual Listener to Change the Conversation

Joe Benesh is a Senior Architect with Shive-Hattery and President + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

You probably think this is an easy topic for me. As an architect, I rely on my drawing skills to convey ideas. Translating the thoughts of others into built forms. In many ways, strategic planning is a lot like architecture – you’re building something from an intangible to a tangible – but there are distinct differences in how you process, synthesize, and deliver the information.

When I work with organizations, the first thing I do is ask if I can come and listen to them. I observe their processes and communication dynamics, getting a sense of the personalities that make up their identity. Once this has been established, we start to talk about ideas.

Ideas take many shapes and forms – there are ways to create visual representations of many things that make up the group’s mission and vision, and, through further discussion relationships start to appear. These relationships become a framework. 

Using a visual listening facilitator allows these frameworks to become clear, especially during strategic planning. I have used this technique in developing ideas – every single person I have worked with has a set of really great ideas, and creating a diagram of how these ideas become a system short circuits what can otherwise be a very linear process. The short circuit comes from the dynamic jump forward that happens when you can “see” your ideas and how they relate.

An example of this is when I was asked to create a systems diagram for various services and organizations and how they relate. I started by meeting with a few key stakeholders and letting them download every bit of information they could to me while I furiously sketched and took notes. I listened to their conversation and took in all of the characteristic data that they took great care and rigor in explaining to me.

The system was confusing, complex, and there were many, many interrelationships – but the ecosystem started to emerge, the longer they spoke. As we were speaking, drafts of the diagram became a living part of the conversation, triggering thoughts and structuring adjacencies.

Even as a series of small, rough sketches – lines and shapes on a page, really – the conversation took leaps forward. I left our session with a robust understanding of business sectors and offerings I only had superficial knowledge of prior to the meeting, and I set to work building a diagram that this community and series of organizations could use collaboratively.

When I completed the diagram, the ideas we spoke about all fit together. You could see the flow between sectors, identify processes, establish common collaterals, and track ROI factors in a meaningful way. Pain questions about what areas could stand improvement became clear, and the diagram could be used by groups internally and by groups external to the particulars. His diagram truly became a tool intended for collaboration.

Turning ideas into graphical representations allows for a dramatic positive turn in conversational dynamics. As you develop your thoughts on how to address strategic planning within your organization, think of engaging a visual facilitator to push the conversation to a completely new level.

Buyer Beware!

Buyer Beware is a fundamental principle that governs business transactions.  It’s a reminder that the buyer of goods or services must exercise caution and diligence in investigating the purchase, and the seller is not responsible for ensuring the buyer’s satisfaction.

Of course, there are many circumstances in which “Buyer Beware” is not the only rule at play. For example, professionals are held to certain standards of performance within their professions. Real estate agents are required to discover and disclose to buyers material defects in a property they are representing. In transactions involving securities or franchises, the buyer is entitled to receive certain disclosures and information prior to making an investment. However, in the commercial context, it is generally the buyer’s responsibility to ask questions, obtain information and protect himself contractually.

It is simply impossible to discover every potential problem with a business through inspections and due diligence. A motivated seller will always be able to hide a problem. It is the professional responsibility a Business Broker has to not to participate in seller duplicity. At times, a Business Broker must rely on their instincts and advice caution when a seller or buyer just does not seem trustworthy.  Business Brokers must also, provide advice to their clients based on our experiences.

 

 Here some examples of situations which you should be prepared to handle:

1.  Investigate your Seller.  What is their reputation and personal integrity?

2.  Understand the documents.  What is that they say and do not say?

3.  Have qualified professional representation (Attorneys, CPA, CFP, Business Broker etc.)

 

Good Selling!

 

Steve Sink  CBI, M&AMI

ss@phxaffiliates.com

 

The Changing Environment

Are you positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by change in the business environment?   Change_1

As my husband and I bounced through our woods on ATVs, I observed, with some sadness, all of the trees that had fallen by the strong storms this summer.  The mature and now struggling oak savannah reminded me of a question posed by scholar and futurist, Joel Barker.  Which plant species is best positioned to take advantage of the prime real estate that comes available when a large tree falls and opens the canopy to new sunlight?

According to Barker, the common thinking was that the most competitive plant would prevail.  Like many things, modern research has brought a change to that thinking.  It turns out that it is not the most competitive, but the plant(s) in the best position to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself that win the battle for the coveted niche.

Of course, that makes sense.  If the most competitive plant won every battle then the entire forest would be populated by the same species.  In nature, as in business, diversity is the spice of life.  Small, sometimes extremely fragile plants are able to find a niche in which they don’t just survive, but thrive, despite competitive pressures from all around.  This is also true of many businesses. 

This insight from the natural world is both excellent news and concerning news for us all.  It provides great hope that the changes that are constant in the marketplace, if properly prepared for, may present great opportunities for the future.  It also provides evidence that enjoying market leadership may be short-lived if preparation for the changes of the future doesn’t remain at the forefront of leader’s strategic agendas.  

How quickly do changes happen?  In high-tech industries, the changes can happen multiple times in a single year.  Although they experience change more slowly, in other markets, such as the funeral industry, leaders are facing new challenges they’ve never seen at any time in the past that are reshaping business models. New technology introduces new possibilities to memorializing a loved one.  Rising social interest in concerns about land use is leading people to make different choices around their final decisions.     

Whether at the cellular level, the personal level, the organizational level, the national level or the international level, everything is changing.   

Is your organization positioned to take advantage of opportunities presented when the landscape of your business environment changes?

 

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