Archives for posts with tag: Perception

The Irish have a great word: passremarkable. It’s used to describe someone who is wont to pass remarks, usually of a personal nature, about someone or something.

You could say it means being judgemental, but that’s not quite right. It’s having no filter – or choosing to ignore the filter – between thought and speech. You usually associate it with, and I’m generalising considerably here, younger people and older people.

I always avoid being judgemental if I can. And especially being passremarkable. Better to give a feeling or opinion some thought and phrase your comment constructively than blurt out something that will probably offend. What are you hoping to accomplish?

And this, of course, applies in business as well as our personal interactions.



Flies looking at the sky the wrong way

It’s the beginning of the second half of the year, a chance to review how the first half went and figure out where we want to be by the end of the second half. A chance to step back for a moment, take stock and ask ourselves if we’re looking at things the right way.

There are lots of business books, concepts and parables to help us do this. One that comes to mind regularly is the parable of the boiled frog from Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline. The story goes that the frog will react to sudden changes, like being dropped into boiling water, but will not notice and respond to gradual changes in temperature if you put it in cooled water which you then heat slowly.

I’d like to offer another parable: the fly in the skylight. We’ve all seen moths round a lamp or flies on a window. They’re both in search of the light. I was reminded of this recently when I noticed the skylight in our sun room. We were enjoying a spell of warm weather and this had drawn a number of flies inside and into the recess containing the skylight. You can probably see them in the picture. The flies can see the sky, their way out or so it seems. They will constantly bang against the skylight, searching for a way out, until they die of exhaustion and lack of food.

Their problem is that they’re looking at the sky the wrong way. They need someone to show them the open window or door lying a few metres away that are 100% better ways for them to get to where they need to go.

So as I embark on the second half of the year, I ask myself this question? Am I choosing the right path for trying to get where I want to go, or am I stuck in the recess, looking at the sky the wrong way and not noticing the glass which blocks my path?

Is it just me or have eyes failed to to keep up? While peace, our understanding of nutrition and farming techniques mean that we are bigger, stronger, faster and we’re living longer than ever before, the eyes don’t appear to have got the message.

Take me for instance. Into my sixth decade, but not by much, I have 3 pairs of glasses. I have a pair for screen-work, phones, laptops, TV and other devices. I have one for driving, because I can see perfectly well into the long range but I can’t read the dashboard numbers and letters. And I have a pair of sunglasses for sunny or bright-light driving and so that I can read prices in shops and books when I’m sitting on a lounger by the pool.

I’ve always had perfect eyesight, except that mid-way through the fifth decade the focal point for close-up work had lengthened to the point where I couldn’t hold a book far away enough or reach the keyboard with the target in focus. From there it’s been regular and expensive trips to the opticians. More pricier than the occasional trip to the physio.

What was life expectancy as recently as a thousand years ago? Half what is is now? The eyes don’t have it any more. We’re living too long and it’s not like we can retrain them like other muscles. I know of no exercise program focused on strengthening the optic nerve and the muscles that control focusing, if indeed they are muscles. All we can do is have corrective surgery in some cases or wear corrective equipment in other.

I’m happy to acknowledge that all my experiences and observations might be coloured by the fact that up close attention to the typed word is my life. I’m both a publisher and consumer of it, for many hours a day, so that may have contributed to the speed of the decline. But even so, if all the magnifying tools in the world disappeared overnight, or I found myself washed up on a deserted island, I would be, to use a crudity, buggered.

Expectation is to my mind very closely linked to perception. It’s like the future tense of perception. What I think about a future event is governing my feelings about it. I might be excited, nervous, mellow or downbeat.

I was reminded of this when I had an apple the other day. I like my apples fresh, with a hard, crisp texture, and a flavoursome but juicy centre. I don’t like them soft, mushy or ‘woody’, as my Dad used to term it. The apple felt firm, I was really looking forward to it and then when I bit, there was a palpable sense of disappointment as I realised it was soft and not particularly nice.

Expectations count for an awful lot, which is why we should manage them with the people and companies we deal with. If we set the expectation as close to the likely reality as we can, they will have a more consistent experience. Better still, we’ll avoid the situation of the phantom where we build demand for something and then annoy our customers if they can’t get what we’re promoting.

Better again, if we can set an expectation that we then exceed, we’re moving the mindset and emotion of the people we’re dealing with in an upward manner, not a downward one.

We can’t stop the ageing process – well I suppose we can if we die, but for me there’s not an easy route back from that. This ageing process means that there will always be someone younger than us, always someone who to us seems really young, always someone to whom we must seem really old. Fact.

I was reminded of this ineluctable fact by a friend of mine, Mr Seamus O’Riordan, whom I caught up with on the phone recently. He was getting his eyes tested not so long ago and bemoaning the fact that it was time to embrace the world of reading glasses, the consequences of which were that people might get a reminder of his reaching a ‘certain age’, to adapt from the gloriously euphemistic French phrase.

‘Well,’ his optician rejoined, ‘I’m 65. You seem really young to me.’ A rather sobering postscript to this is that the older gentleman died a few months later.

It’s all relative. It all depends on your perspective.

So what do we do about it? Two things:

  1. Live for the moment, and
  2. Look after ourselves, so we remain young in body, young in mind, young at heart
The Power of Personalisation

The Power of Personalisation

I received this email in my web mail inbox the other day – and I loved it, both as an individual recipient and consumer of email and as a marketer.

There’s nothing new in it, and I won’t be able to convert my interest in action as I live in another country and can’t easily attend games.

That said, for me it epitomises the power of personalisation. Both the subject line and the quoted phrase are redolent of sporting chants, as well as pandering to my ego. The email is visually appealing, the strapline appeals to me as a fan – and a customer – who can make the telling contribution to success, and the ask is a simple one: we’d like you as a season ticket holder.

Superb stuff. Of course, I don’t know how the email turned out. I don’t know too much about the target demographic. I am willing to bet, however, that it performed particularly well against target.

It was Tom Peters who said that ‘perception is all there is’. I’ve talked about this quote before, and its importance, but for me there’s something also inviolably true, and it’s a bit like the other side of the coin.

Perspective is all there is, too. Perspective is your perception of the world, and, more importantly, someone else’s or something else’s perspective. I was reminded of this in the most mundane way recently. Having made myself a cup of tea, I was bringing a soggy tea bag over to the bin, supported by a spoon and, under it, my free hand to catch the drips. The spoon looked full of tea in the side I could see, so I tilted it away slightly. As I tilted it away, it dripped tea from the side I couldn’t see, which was obviously fuller, or at least as full, as ‘my’ side. I hadn’t checked the other side.

It always pays to try and understand the perspective of the other person, in a transaction, in politics, in pretty much anything. Once you get their perspective, you get the wisdom to agree with them, or the ammunition to persuade them to agree with you.

I may, dear reader, have detected one of those almost imperceptible changes in language that form part of its relentless movement. It’s a bit like being able to break down a movie into the 24 stills per second and grasping one of the stills as a discrete moment in time. Or, I might not have.

When I first moved to the Emerald Isle, back in the late 1990’s, greetings were a bit like they were in the US. People would say hello by asking you how you are without ever expecting a response. Where Americans say ‘what’s up?’, Irish might say ‘How are things?’ Contrast this with the German equivalent ‘Was gibt’s?’ – what’s up? – and its answer ‘Nichts Besonderes’ – nothing special – where our Teutonic friends are generally expecting a response and perhaps an ‘Und dir/ihnen? – and you?

The interesting thing about living in Dublin was that you would often hear a compound rhetorical question, where someone quite genuinely, and without any hint of irony, might say,’Morning, how are you, how are things, are you well?’ The first time this happened to me I had to ask which question they wanted answering first. Even then folk would look at you funny if you said ‘I’m pretty good thanks, and how are you?’

Over the last six months I’ve noticed kids actually answering the greeting-question, which I’ve never observed before, hence my opening paragraph which you’re probably thinking I might have slightly oversold. So now, when you greet friends of your kids with a ‘Howya?’ you tend to hear ‘fine’, ‘fine, thanks’, ‘I’m good’. I’m not saying I’m disinterested in their general wellbeing, rather that I’m not ready for them to provide an answer to what is a ‘hello’. This takes me back to my days of learning German when someone would ask ‘wie geht’s? – how’s it going? – and I would answer ‘ja’, or yes. Not what they were expecting.

So there you have it, the Irish greeting is now not a greeting, it’s a question, and one that should be answered.

You heard it here first. And probably last.

Yep, all this is mine...

Yep, all this is mine…

“Yeah, we own that customer…”

No you don’t.  You don’t own a customer, ever, and they don’t own you either. As a matter of fact, we share ownership of all that we consider ours: our house with various critters, our company with a bunch of stakeholders, and our real estate and world with an altogether different bunch of stakeholders. It’s like we share a view or a moment.

The sooner we get the notion of sharing into our heads, even in the commercial western world, we all work together better and we all profit. You don’t have customers, suppliers, or competitors, you have partners, and partners by their very nature share stuff.

The Cleaner Fuel, Really?

The Cleaner Fuel, Really?

‘It does exactly what is says on the tin.’ A very well known advertising strapline that has served the company – and of course its customers – very well over the last few decades.

I’ve talked before about the importance of perception. Appearances mean a lot. We make judgements from them, we trust them. But what happens when those appearances let us down? Then we start to doubt the claims of the person or company and our trust starts to break down.

Wondering around my home town the other day, I noticed these fuel tanks hiding behind an environmental-looking faux bamboo fence within a housing estate. This is clearly the central place that serves the neighbouring houses with their fuel.

Even though this is the stuff we hide away behind walls, fences and floorboards, there is clearly an ironic and serious compromise of the brand promise going on when the container of of a fuel container is filthy, or filthsome as my offspring have recently coined.

As a marketeer, you have to protect and optimise every single touchpoint of your brand with your customers. While it’s true to say that a rising tide raises all boats, a hole in the net lets all the fish out too.