Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter?

Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter? Those are the questions posed in Presentation Zen's Two Questions: Why does it matter? What's your contribution?, taken from Marty Neumeir's The Brand Gap: Revised Edition (2nd Edition).

Much like the recent two words exercise, those three questions sound useful. Here's my quick attempt:

Who are you?


What do you do?

I help people solve problems, test strategies, make sense of confusing situations, work more effectively in groups that are spread around the globe, and have more productive discussions to improve and speed problem solving and decision making. I help organizations work smarter.

Sometimes I do this by using computer simulations (system dynamics) as a testbed for new ideas. Sometimes I use approaches such as action science, which, at its core, is a way to test assumptions about conversations we have at work. Sometimes I simply help you have productive dialog so you can progress towards your goals, no matter whether you're in the same room or distributed around the globe. Sometimes I use other systemic approaches.

Why does it matter?

You lead an organization, you work in an organization, or, for most of us, you do both. People have joined your organization (you joined your organization) to accomplish something they couldn't accomplish alone. Perhaps it's as simple as supporting themselves and their families. Perhaps it's to save the world or to make life easier for certain people (your customers) or to make life possible for certain people. Assuming you're working for an ethical cause (and I suspect that includes everyone here), that's a big deal, and you should feel good about it. Your organization bears responsibility towards the people you serve and the people who have joined you in your cause, and you, no doubt, want to live up to that responsibility.

Perhaps you're doing it as well as can be done, but most organizations, even the best ones, in my observations, have weak spots somewhere. Perhaps company executives have high goals, but they're not sure how to link those to effective actions. Perhaps the company experiences recurring problems, and people aren't sure what causes them or how to fix them (or even that they are fixable). Perhaps strategies are set and plans launched without much testing to see if they fit reality or are likely to be successful. Perhaps executives wish people would step up and take more initiative, while others wish the executives would listen to what's really going on. Perhaps you and your colleagues sit 5,000 km. apart, and you worry that you aren't as effective as you could be if you only sat in the same building.

That's why what I do matters. I help organizations, perhaps yours, fix some of those problems. You do the work and retain control; I shine the flashlight and help you see insights that might help you.

Here's my question to you: where is my brand gap? As Neumeier says, brand is what you say it is, not what I say it is. It's your "gut feeling" about what I do.

You see me and my company, my work, from the outside, while I see it from the inside. What do you see as my brand? Why does (or should) it matter? What are the strengths I didn't mention? Where am I failing to live up to what I see as my brand?

That's not a rhetorical question. As risky as it may seem, I want your answers. Either comment here, send me an email, or give me a call. Listening is one of the key ways companies learn, and I think unstructured listening such as this may be far better than a survey for this question.

Oh, and how would you go through this exercise for your organization?

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