The aircraft tray table broke. Perhaps the forces of daily passenger use overcame the lifetime capabilities of the mechanism. A post-it note confirms the tray table is inoperable. We can overcome the inconvenience but might it feel better if there was clarity on how and when broken becomes operational. If the post-it note stated the tray table would be fixed tonight, this week, within a month, might we feel that our suffering was temporary, which is a more fathomable and digestible period?
How might we acknowledge the broken elements of our cause and share our plan to return the disrupted piece into service? We may still receive complaints, but a definitive answer on how we are moving forward is better than ‘we know.’
How long would you allow your bedroom smoke detector to continue sounding a low battery alarm? If it is evident and annoying, we tend to remedy the situation quickly. If we run a large hotel and the bedside clock is alarming in an unoccupied room, housekeeping might turn it off the next day. There is a scale to inconveniences, but we might want to understand the perspective of the people who interact with the problem. Almost every airline challenge ranks above the broken tray table. However, if it remains unfixed for a week, sixty passengers are disappointed. Continue for a month, and two-hundred forty passengers are without the tray table amenity. Fix it the first overnight, and the inconvenience stops at eight.
It is convenient to believe that the money our cause raises, the facilities we build, the programs we nurture, and the brand we build are the core of our cause’s work. However, none of these elements can tell our story. They are the results of our work. The people who inhabit these space, donate resources, attend the programs, and ride for the brand are the story-tellers. They represent the conduit through which our narrative transfers from one individual to the next.
The bib I wore during a nordic ski race and the medal that might come with an age-group award are just ordiments. They alone do not have much depth, possibly props in my story. I can hold them-up to talk about the fierce cold and headwinds that faced the race participants. I can point to them and describe the pack of skiers who worked together to battle the elements. I can hang them on the wall and they remind me of an adventure, but they do not tell the story.
Our travel photos capture a moment in time but are exponentially more powerful when they support the story. Was our Eiffel Tower photo taken during a romantic walk, evening run, from a train crossing the Seine, or just a screenshot? The photo might be memorable but the story provides a greater dimension.
We must get comfortable elevating our stories. Unless we can compete on scale and overwhelm our fans with endless offerings, our narratives will be our strongest point of engagement. If we agree to amplify our stories, then how might we generate human-centered strategies to support our community? How might we be remarkable for the behaviors and experiences we curate?
The world’s largest iceberg just formed. It is remarkable for its size (larger than the Spanish island of Mallorca). The moment it separated from the ice shelf in Antarctica, the countdown timer begins on its title defense. It will be overtaken by a bigger iceberg, divided into multiple smaller icebergs, or eventually melt. Its fate as the former largest iceberg is inevitable.
When we try to retain a title as largest, biggest, fastest, best-funded, etc., we hang our competitive advantage on a flimsy flag pole. It might stand tall and be covered in spotlights, but our flag looks out of place, antiquated, and even irrelevant once it is surpassed. That is why some companies invest in achieving the title of ‘best place to work.’ It reflects their organizational culture and values. The best place to work is more challenging to create but sustainable when the community believes in its collective strength; it is not a finish line but an enduring journey.
Is your enterprise trying to win by metrics or invest in human experiences? The number of large retailers that were once ubiquitous and now obsolete might provide a narrative about the staying power of those who scale first. Then there are those remarkable causes that continue to deliver on a promise that is not easy to measure but is profoundly evident in every interaction.
Do we mark the way to the exit for those looking to move on, or do we let them stumble around until they find it without acknowledgement? It is easy to place our energy in marking the entrance but if those who entering encounter a tired and exhausted group of individuals looking for the depart, then neither group is being served. Even the airlines post a member of the flight crew at the plane door to wish us a good onward journey. What if our exit was as remarkable as our first impressions of the cause?
SWOT analysis is a fundamental activity during many retreats. They are visually pleasing and quick to focus conversations. It is easy to understand why they endured. Today I read a new process for facilitating a SWOT. The mindset is compelling.
Performed in isolation, the SWOT offers a myopic view of the world. It is our self-evaluation. We may believe we are memorable conference presenters because of our witty narratives but do we really know? Unless people walk out of the room during our presentation, or there is a sudden rush of new audience members, it is hard to assess how we are trending.
SWOT is an instrument. An opportunity to facilitate conversations. The greatest gift is getting to the human element. What are the behaviors and interactions we are fostering? We may have the most beautiful facilities, the best thank you gifts and a polished social media presence, but if our values are misaligned with our actions, then it is hard for anyone to build trust or take action on our behalf.
If we use the SWOT to discuss the relationships we are building with those who need what we have to offer, there is an opportunity for a robust conversation. If we use the SWOT to establish an arbitrary ranking, it may miss the highest return on investment, a discussion about how we can be of service.