3 learnings from my daughter making me a stronger communicator!

I am often in the field hosting seminars, lectures and workshops about strategy, branding and innovation. It comes as a natural part with my line of work. And I love it.

One of those things I often talk about is how important Openness is. How essential it is to not shut yourself down from information or insights but staying eager to learn and understand. In order to do so we must constantly challenge ourselves of which sources we use to gather information and how we look at the data before we judge it too soon with our judgmental minds. There is a time to be judgmental and there is a time to be open. Ironically, the more we have learnt in the past the harder it is to stay open. We widen our horizons with knowledge but at the same time we enforce barriers and walls, boxing our preferred point of reference we’ll use for how to interpret any future aspect to take into consideration. Therefore, with knowledge we come efficient but we risk missing out a lot on new insights if we get to stuck in what we once learnt.

One of the best ways to challenge yourself is to change your routines. That is easier said than done. Routines are every mans safe haven and rightly so. But our routines are also what makes us judgmental. We collect from our experience and directly have an opinion and it makes us miss new perspectives.

The best way to break your routines is to use completely new sources for learning I always argued. And therefore I decided to see what I could learn from being adhere and open to my daughter as a source of learning. She is a 2 years old energy-hopping-super-smile-sheer-happiness-trick & charm magnet.

What can you actually learn from your daughter? It turns out it is a lot. Traditionally we are told that we grow up to become parents who are to teach and foster our children. And that’s it. But in fact it is a journey of both ways. You have to learn from your child. Learn of how you are as a parent. Learn how to teach. Learn of your child’s way of happiness and respect her choices and decisions just as any other individual. And when challenging yourself to stay open to your child’s decisions, you realize how important those lessons will be. Not only because you won’t face them with the same intensity elsewhere but also because those lessons will lead you to the very basis of human behavior. And understanding that core behavior is the key to everything; Getting a team committed to a plan, motivating your employees or attracting talent with compelling storytelling via social media.

A child is unbiased, untouched and unboxed. They do what they think is right. They act without the limitations of a boxed frame of reference or routine which we as grown ups have acquired and enforced long ago. They also have an astounding will for learning new things and an undying curiosity.

Out of all things I learnt during this experiment of mine, all can be summarized into three main things:

They don’t do what you say, they do as you do.

This is an old cliché but oh so true. And it strikes me how we every so often tend to forget this essential piece. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried telling my daughter to pick the toys up from the floor, or stop running around the house with the fork or toying with the hair dryer. Such directives never resulted in anything fruitful at all unless a very clear reward waited at the end of the goal line for my directive. And if so, the action from my daughter would be only for getting the reward and not for actually changing her behavior. Instead she would be going back to act like she did before as soon as the reward was ‘consumed’. As soon as I showed her what I wanted done by doing it myself, she became interested and wanted to take part. It was suddenly not about the reward. It was about her learning new things and wanting to take part.

It is the same in business life. How many times have we not listened to presentations of new policies or processes that should be implemented but then rarely if ever are followed? Most I talk to agree that the majority of companies succeed with defining this work but fail when trying to implement it. I’ve heard some reason that lack of clarity or the complexity level was the main reasons for why. I personally believe it is a lack of example or role modeling which is the main answer. It doesn’t matter what you say, if you don’t act accordingly. In fact, people will only see through it, lose respect and then care even less for your future communications.

Learning 1: Communicate fewer things. But DO what you say. Show it, invite to it and let those around you learn by practice, not by theory.

The same goes for branding. 80% of a brand is what you DO. 20% is what you say. And if you say something you don’t do, then you’re in trouble. People will see through it. And again, lose respect and trust for your future communications.

Learning 2: Quit the bullshit. Be authentic.

They do what you say they shouldn’t do.

Every so often I fell into the trap to talk about what my daughter shouldn’t be doing. Every seasoned parent will smile reading this. We all know what will happen. She’ll do just that, over and over again. Negations rarely work at all in fact. That is because you spend time focusing on something which you ironically want them to have less focus at. A very common mistake. What do you do if you want them to do something else? You give them a new focus. Easy.

Ironically this can be used the other way around in communications. Curiosity and excitement of finding something interesting is often spurred if a feeling of “something special” waiting on the other side is provided. The more you make it feel intended especially for the person in question, the greater the effect. That is why we always gain from being elaborative. It triggers the very core of our human instincts: Our curiosity.

Carlsberg made a genius move by putting up a poster, toying with their well known slogan, where you could actually get yourself a beer. Does it catch attention? Well naturally. And as we all know, in todays competition of messaging over social media, we need to do what we can to be seen. The answer rarely lies only in the choice of wording. It is about what you offer and how you present it.

Another amazing example of communications that offer something different is the old classic Google recruitment campaign:

By presenting a message which was relevant to only some people and not even advertising with their company name, the result was a created interest with the relevant people only. All about content and presentation.

What is my point in reference to my daughter? My point is that you can’t control what people do. People do what they feel like, they head to the places which interests them and what they think will excite them. Everything is driven from curiosity to begin with. It doesn’t matter what you tell them to do or not do.

Learning: Curiosity is one of the main drivers of human behavior. Therefore, you must always do all you can to trigger curiosity. Instructions are out the door. That is the reason employees are more online at social media than on the intranet. They do not do as they are told. They do what they feel like.

They do what is fun.

Everything is doable pretty much if it is fun. No rocket science but so important to remind ourselves of this fact every now and then. Even wiping the table from stains of berries and jam works just as well as anything else if made fun. I tried singing with my daughter while tidying. It was a blast. For both of us. The nature of something can either be perceived as work or as a game. How you present it will determine the perception on the task at hand. My daughter has just as fun, wiping stains of her pants as being outside getting them. In the end it is all about learning. Learning is fun. And should be nothing else than that.

Challenge yourself. How many times a day are you telling someone else that they “have to do something” and then end up wondering how come it take such long time for people to get things done? I am certain you agree it happen every once in a while. That is because directives aren’t fun. The main reason why gamification is growing as approach is not all a coincidence. It is because it goes back to the very basics of human behavior: We want to be entertained and incentives will lure us on the right path.

Every time you ask someone else to do something for you, ask yourself how engaging and fun it is. If it scores low, you’ll surely notice that you have a low usage rate as well. And the only way to change that is to raise the “fun bar”. How fun is it really to fill in an old application into an ATS? How often do you complain that too few candidates do just that? Do we see a pattern here? And if it ain’t fun, what are you going to do about it?

Learning: Things you ask of others must be engaging, in every step. If it isn’t, you’re the one losing out because someone else will take the opportunity instead.

Thank you for reading.

/Daniel