Monday, May 28, 2007

Who owns the way you think?

Businesses and economies are living in interesting times. As more and more of what we exchange is not stuff but thoughts, we need not only to assign value to those thoughts, but to assign ownership. It looks like value is the easy part of the assignment.

It may seem evident to you that you own the way you think. We are, after all, talking about something that no one else in the world can produce. You are the only source for the particular blend of experience and expertise that you bring to your clients or employers. Since no one can tell you what to think, it seems to follow that no one can tell you how to think - and therefore that you are the only person with ownership of how you think.

There are two problems with this. The first is that your clients may be paying you for what you think, but your employer almost certaintly believes that it is paying you for how you think. As an employer, if you don't own the process by which you produce the goods/services you sell, you are in a shaky position at best. How can you ensure continuous supply if you don't own what you sell?

The second problem is that human beings have a fundamental tendency to believe we have more control than we do. It's entirely possible that how you think - and how you behave - are as much a function of your environment as they are of your personal competence. You might very well think differently (with a different process, and with different products) if you were working somewhere else. It is not impossible that your employer has as much influence on your thinking process and you do yourself - and therefore, perhaps, as genuine a right to ownership.

It's certainly worth thinking about.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My hard drive failed this week

One minute I was listening to Gershwin and writing email and the next minute - nothing. The computer no longer listed the hard drive as a possibility. I took the computer to the shop (this is a plug for Canadian Computer in Oakville - they have excellent service).

It turns out that the hard drive has failed and must be replaced - but since it's Memorial Day in the States, I might be without my main computer for another week. Apparently, this is how hard drives often fail - suddenly and without warning.

So I am suffering withdrawal and mild panic - only mild, because I ran a complete backup Monday evening and, with any luck at all, I will be able to restore most of the system mostly without effort (with luck, because I've never done it before). This also explains why the blog has been silent for so long this week, and why I won't be able to update my website for another week.

If you are an NLP Canada Training client, spread the word. We will have to reschedule the event on June 1, and I'll post updates on course announcements and schedules for June and July as soon as I am fully back online. I can reply to email, but I don't have access to my own email address book.

If you are not an NLP Canada Training client, what's up? Watch for the updates, and come visit us when you're in Toronto.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

just three things

1. Human beings work best when minds and bodies are engaged simultaneously.

2. Although models may differ on what we should be learning, it is clear that the purpose of the human organism is to learn.

3. Learning is movement - you can do it automatically or you can pay attention to shape and direct your learning.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wake up and smell the coffee

Slang is arguably the most alive form of language - it has a vividness and an energy that is often lacking in more formal speech. Think, for a moment, about the phrase "wake up and smell the coffee" -

Notice that the phrase describes what language does - it doesn't describe what your senses do. What I mean is, reading the phrase "smell the coffee" wakes up the appropriate centres in your brain, and allows you to choose to intensify your attention on the smell of freshly brewed coffee. This is the opposite of what happens in life - it is the smell of the coffee that causes us to wake up.

Notice that someone else has made you coffee - or that you set the coffee maker to automatic - so that you will wake up pleasantly at precisely the right time.

Notice that smelling the coffee is a nice way to wake up - it's much better than the cat/dog yowling and jumping or the alarm crashing into your lovely morning dreams.

Notice that if you want someone else to wake up, you have the option of simply putting the coffee on and waiting for what they want to get them out of bed and bring them into your space.

Monday, May 14, 2007

If you're in the Toronto area, come out and play

Most of the people who read this blog have participated in one of our training events. We would love to see you again. Some of you have never met us in person. We would love to meet you. Come out and play.

When you join one of our evening or weekend events, you will stretch, relax, and see the world just a little bit differently. It's a lot like taking a vacation - whatever our topic, we provide an opportunity for all of us (participants and trainers) to laugh and learn with great people.

Visit for a list of current and upcoming courses and events.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Spring is a good time to think about models of power - we never celebrate either mothers or fathers without at least the hint of an edge. The edge comes from the power our parents have over us long after we are adults ourselves. Some part of us continues to believe - with small child intensity - that our parents know more than we do, and that their judgments of us are accurate. Long after the conscious mind declares this nonsense and recognizes the limits of our parents' wisdom, some part of us continues to believe in the way they describe us to ourselves.

This, as much as food and shelter, is the most basic thing that our parents do for us. From the time we are born, they define our edges. They are paradoxically closer to us than any other human beings and unimaginably different. Babies know their mothers (from the inside out!) and do not know their mothers at all (cannot possibly understand any element of adult experience). Mothers (and only a little later, fathers) teach us that the world is both intimate and foreign - it is a friendly place and it is a place where we depend on beings we can neither know nor control.

The limits of our power do not change very much as we grow. We influence the world around us knowing that we cannot know or control it any more or less than a baby knows or controls its mother.

And, if we are lucky, we know how much control that baby has. If we are lucky, we have held a baby and marvelled at it, and wondered at its growth. We have let all of our attention wrap around the experience of a small child and felt the world grow wonderful. We have been teased and tormented and focused by our love for a child who cannot know us, a child who has no power, and yet a child who is somehow at the centre of all we are and all we do.

We cannot know or control the world any more or any less than a baby controls its parents.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spring Cleaning

As the sun begins to shine and the world comes alive with colour, we begin to look through our windows more often. Often that means that we also begin to look at our windows more often. We see the residue of winter dust on the inside, and winter weather on the outside. It's time for spring cleaning.

The eyes are not only the windows to the soul - they're the windows the soul looks through at the world. They need spring cleaning, too. Fresh growth deserves a fresh perspective.

We're offering one day and evening programs all through the month of May. It's our way of helping people do their spring cleaning. We add energy, light, and new growth, and let clients sweep away the grimy residue that's distorting their view. When they freshen their eyes, new opportunities are suddenly visible - sometimes close up and sometimes on the horizon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

5 Ways to Enjoy Spring

1. Notice the sunshine, and the colours, and the feeling of skin uncovered.

2. Notice that some days are better than others, and that's okay.

3. Bounce a little - spring in your step - spring ahead - spring up.

4. Learn that light makes everything brighter - and makes long days into a good thing.

5. Allow winter turn into energy that animates and excites and brightens - it's happening all around you.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

sales and the organization

How do you feel about sales?

When I tell people - whether they are business students or entrepreneurs - that everyone in business is in sales, many of them tense up. They do not want to see themselves as sales people and they do not want to have to sell. Yet without exchange, there is no business. And whatever our role in social systems (from education to retail), we are in the business of making exchanges with other people. The nature of these exchanges has to be that they leave most of us better off most of the time - otherwise we would stop making them.

What sales people do is not different in nature than what the rest of the staff is doing - it is different in frequency and in effectiveness. Practice makes perfect, we say - and so practice in sales leads (more often than not) to better results. Sales people are often good at getting what they want. When their needs or vision conflicts with that of others in the company, sales people have at least three advantages:
1) they have practical ownership of client relationships (intangible assets)
2) they are good at influence
3) they are necessary in order for all the other functions to continue to function.

This means that sales people are often in a position of practical power - maybe that's why they are called a sales force. People in other functions, from leadership to support roles, often think that sales people are 'getting away with murder' either because they are playing their power or because the sales process is so emotionally draining that sales people need to be pampered (a different version of the power card). Sales power is not proportionate to perceived levels of skill, effort or teamwork.

What happens when we understand that this imbalance results from the nature of business itself and not from the behaviour, beliefs or personalities of the sales people themselves? Can we change the nature of the connection between the sales force and the rest of the company so that the team feels more balanced and congruent?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Another description of how metaphor works in influence

More from The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull. Writing about the amydala as a center for detecting danger and responding with fear (especially to potential loss of control), Zull comments:

"In some situations the amygdala becomes less active than normal, and negative emotions seem to diminish. . . .[this] seems to happen when the cortical brain becomes involved in cognitive tasks. For example, if someone puts her mind to solving a puzzle, the amygdala becomes less active."

Perhaps this is part of the reason that telling a story is so effective at both minimizing conflict and increasing influence. One of the basic explanations for the role of metaphor in increasing suggestibility has always been that it keeps the conscious mind busy so that the unconscious mind is more open to positive suggestions.

In biological terms, the amygdala produces our unconscious response (fear, for instance) which is then transmitted to our conscious minds as the feelings associated with the response (being aware of being frightened). Telling a story is a cognitive activity that engages the conscious mind in solving puzzles - puzzles of 'what will happen' within the story and puzzles of 'why is this relevant to me?" outside the story. The very act of solving the puzzle makes it less likely that the story will trigger negative emotional responses and automatic censoring.

This biological explanation has the advantage of both reinforcing the Ericksonian practice and making more precise the roles of conscious and unconscious process. It suggests that the conscious mind does not need to be distracted so much as it needs to be actively engaged in understanding and integrating material, and that it is this engagement that produces the effect of 'letting one's guard down.'

Friday, May 04, 2007

Understanding how the brain works is useful

I have just started reading a book called The Art of Changing the Brain, by James Zull. He begins by saying that he started with hopes that his book would be brilliant - then he raised the stakes and set a higher goal: he hopes the book will be useful. His more precise goal is to be useful to teachers.

Teachers change the brain by prompting learning. You also change brains - whenever you sell, manage, develop or communicate. Knowing how the brain works is part of knowing how to do your job if your job involves any thinking or any interaction with other people. Since jobs are part of economies and economies are systems of interaction, it is likely that your job involves some exchange with other people. That means you are a professional learner and a professional teacher (you get paid for changing your own brain and the brains of other people).

Zull opens his book by describing the experiential learning cycle proposed by David Kolb and showing how it is the product of the actual working structure of the brain:

experience - reflect - abstract - act
sensory input - integration closest to sensory - integration closest to motor areas - motor output

All learning requires input from outside the brain, the ability to collate and integrate that input into meaningful patterns, the ability to decide what to do as a result of the learning, and an active response (often in the form of language). At NLPCT, we describe the patterns this way: sense - imagine - intend - voice.

You don't need more than this to begin shaping your own interactions to allow for all four phases of learning. You can start with the next thing on your to-do list today and ask:

1) how do I use the senses in conveying the information I need to convey?
2) how do I make it easier for my listener to integrate that information with what s/he already knows?
3) how do I prompt my listener to take ownership of that information (to form an intention about what to do with it)?
4) how do I notice what I need to notice about the feedback I get from this process (what does my listener do)?

Here in Oakville, the sun is shining and we are looking forward to a beautiful spring weekend. It will be a perfect opportunity for people to notice the way they take in sensory information, integrate it, give it meaning, and take action.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Knowing what no means

The Tom Peters Time e-newsletter has this to say about the difference between selling to men and selling to women:

One classic example is the term still used today called "handling objections." Sales training still teaches that if you get a "no" from a buyer, you should go back, sharpen your pencil, come up with a new deal, and go make the pitch one more time. Now, you have to realize that this is how men sell to men, and most sales training is taught by men on how to sell to men. The truth is that this doesn't work when you are selling to women. To women (now read this very slowly), "No means No!"

I'm not sure this is always true - it might also be a matter of time frames. Peters goes on to say that women want to build a relationship with a product or company, so it may mean that no means not now - give me some time to get used to the idea.

There's certainly a difference between saying that my default position is "buy" - so that if problems are solved (i.e. objections handled) then I will buy - and saying that my default position is "consider" - in which case merely handling objections would not be enough. Meeting objections would balance the objections- it would not provide extra weight to the 'buy' side of the scales. In order to move from "consider" to "buy" I would need to have positive incentive to make the shift. If I made objections, that would be an indication that the incentives were not compelling - so handling the objections would merely prolong a process that was already off the tracks.

Recently I read something that said women will splurge on small things, but are price-conscious on larger things (they will spring for a latte or a pedicure, but comparison shop for a good winter coat, etc.). Their default position may well be "shop" whereas men may have a default of "buy" - they're only out there looking once they're convinced they want to buy.

The key, in either case (and regardless of gender) is to make changes to the beginning of the sales process. Rather than focus on 'handling objections' or 'closing a sale,' the key is to gain as much information as possible from the beginning of the process so that you know whether your customer is coming in with "buy" or "shop" as a default. Instead of having your own predisposition to selling benefits or solutions (objections in disguise), you can meet your customer in his/her model, and begin to notice the pace at which s/he is comfortable moving from "explore" to "buy."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A fascination with roads

I have always admired roads - the winding, twisting-narrow-lane kind of roads one finds outside the city that lead to very specific places (often not where I thought I was going) and the broad, safe, smooth roads that give us passage from one city to another. Some of them are blasted through the thick walls of the Canadian Shield; some follow rivers through valleys; and some have been cut through miles upon miles of forest. Roads amaze me (sometimes they also form mazes for me).