Monday, February 28, 2011

5 Why

The Five Why's is a simple technique to drill-down to the root cause of a problem. To use the Five Why's, start with a problem, posed as a "why" statement and keep asking "why" until you've repeated the process five times.

A example could be:
  1. Why were you late to work? Because I had to get a ride to work.
  2. Why did you have to hitch a ride to work? Because my car wouldn't start.
  3. Why wouldn't your car start? Because the engine makes a banging noise.
  4. Why does it make a noise? Because there was no oil in the engine.
  5. Why no oil? Because I never checked it.
Although referred to as the "Five Why's" you can substitute other who/what/why/how words to fit the situation.

Another example:
  1. Why didn't you complete your homework?  Because I didn't have time.
  2. What was going on that you didn't have time?  I was busy doing other things.
  3. Like what?  Jenny came over.
  4. Why did Jenny come over?  Because I called her.
  5. What did you say to her?  Come over and play because I'm bored and want to play.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Winston Churchill's quotes on truth:

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brainstorming Rules

Brainstorming is an excellent way to identify solutions for problems. Brainstorming activities can be performed by groups or as individuals. There are numerous books and websites that describe a variety of creative techniques for brainstorming.

Before you start brainstorming, there are a few rules that will ensure that the process is most effective.
  1. Use sticky notes. Write one idea or suggestion on each sticky note. This will provide for maximum flexibility when looking for commonalities between ideas and eliminating less effective suggestions.  For ideas on using sticky notes, download Secrets of a Sticky Note Ninja.
  2. Focus on quantity. The basic idea behind brainstorming is that multiple solutions are generated, regardless of quality. Once several ideas are generated, they can be evaluated for applicability or effectiveness.
  3. Don't criticize or censor. During the brainstorming process, you should not criticize or evaluate any idea that is generated. An atmosphere of openness is essential for coming up with several possible solutions.
  4. All ideas should be considered. Although more creative ideas may not be the best solutions, often creative suggestions can spark other suggestions that will be effective. 
  5. Combine and improve ideas. Once several ideas have been collected, place similar ideas together and take the best components of each solution.
  6. Give a time limit. Working under pressure will encourage you to stay focused.
  7. Write down your responses. The most effective way to work through this process is to write down each and every idea. Your memory can only retain a limited number of items in short-term memory and hopefully you will generate more ideas than your memory can retain. Additionally, mental brainstorming does not lend itself to sorting and arrange ideas that have been generated.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Create a Memorable Event

The advertisement for Apple Mac was played only one time during the 1984 Super Bowl.  Yet since then, it has won several awards and it still recognized for its impact and effectiveness.  It is a great example of visual storytelling in a brief period of time (only one minute).  According to Wikipedia, this ad was not endorsed by everyone on Apple's board, but creative heads prevailed.

Monday, February 14, 2011


A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.--Charles Schwab

A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.--Mary Kay Ash

Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm.--Earl Nightingale

Enthusiasm is the most important thing in life.--Tennessee Williams

Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm.--Benjamin Disraeli

My strength is my enthusiasm.--Placido Domingo

The real secret of success is enthusiasm.--Walter Chrysler

You can do anything if you have enthusiasm.--Henry Ford

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Happy vs Sad

Not too long ago my daughter completed a writing assignment for her sixth-grade English class.  The assignment was to take a location and describe it from two perspectives:  as a happy and warm place and then as a scary place.

My daughter loves horses so she selected a horse barn as her location.  For the happy description she described the fragrance of the hay, the soft feel of the beautiful horses, and the pleasure of riding.  For the "scary" description she wrote about taking shelter in the barn during a thunderous downpour, the smell of rotting food, and being scared by a cat jumping out of the darkness.

Our outlook on life is like my daughter's writing assignment.  The way we approach each day is a choice that we make.  We can either find the positive or the negative in every situation.  Psychologists refer to this choice as "cognitive reframing."  It has also been referred to as a change of paradigms.

When I was in college, I had the "opportunity" to deliver pizzas for a major chain.  Really, I hated the job.  Even though I believed I was familiar with the town I had lived in for 10 years, I quickly learned that there were several roads either too small or too new for me to know.  The challenge was even greater while delivering at night on roads and to destinations not clearly identified.

After a few nights, I realized that this job might not be too bad, and after a few more nights of improved time on deliveries and extra tips in my pocket, I felt positive enough that I delivered pizza through the summer. I could have hated the job for the entire summer and been miserable, but approaching the situation with a positive attitude resulted in a pleasant and memorable experience - I still like pizza!

Whatever your situation, try to take a positive outlook even if all that means is knowing that the situation will pass.  You'll feel better and less anxious.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Story Factor

The Story Factor: inspiration, influence, & persuasion through the art of storytelling is a book written by Annette Simmons, owner of Group Process Consulting.  The author takes the art of storytelling and applies it to the world of business and communication.  Storytelling is not just a treat for children at bedtime but an effective way to share knowledge with others. 

I first read The Story Factor in 2003.  When I start reading a book, I write the date on the first page and when finished reading, I enter the date on the last page or at the point I stop reading.  It is permissible to stop reading a book if you have lost interest.  I found this book interesting and read it in a couple of weeks. 

In the first chapter, Ms. Simmons provides details and justifications for the six stories that everyone should know.  When meeting individuals or presenting for groups, before people will listen to your message you must first establish your credibility by explaining who you are and why you are appearing before them.  Rather than citing a series of facts, story is a comfortable, familiar medium that draws people to you.  With story people will give you undivided attention.

A theme throughout the book is that facts by themselves remain cold and unappealing.  Although facts are true and generally undeniable, people may resist new factual information if it differs from or challenges their long-held beliefs.  Using stories is effective because it provides a context for facts.  Story gives you the opportunity to tell others about your previous experience in a certain situation. Rather than telling someone to try harder and don't complain, you might tell a story about someone you know who persevered through adversity without complaining. 

In The Story Factor you will also learn the elements of telling a story, ten situations where story is better than fact, and how to influence the unwilling.

If you want to reach others in a more effective way, I encourage you to read The Story Factor.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Not too long ago I found myself at the Ronald Reagan airport in Washington, DC with plans to connect with friends in Alexandria, Virginia. One of my friends had e-mailed me earlier in the morning to let me know that Alexandria was two stops away from the airport on the blue line of the Metro, Washington DC's subway system.

After collecting my luggage at the airport, I proceeded to the airport Metro stop and purchased my transfer ticket. When I ascended the escalator to the subway platform for the blue line, I noticed several people standing on the track heading one way and no one standing on the opposite side. I stood with the other people on the platform and entered the subway when the doors opened.

After three stops, I realized that I might have started out in the wrong direction. That realization was confirmed when I arrived at the fourth stop. At that point I located a map on the wall of the train and began to orient myself. A guy in a suit asked, "Where are you headed?"

When I replied, "Alexandria," he simply said, "Oh." Then he followed with the directions I needed to transfer to the correct subway line heading past the airport and on to Alexandria. "Whatever you do," he said, "Don't take the green line."

I followed his directions and successfully disembarked at the Alexandria Metro stop. Since then I have returned to Alexandria several times without any problems.

What I learned from my experience is that it is best to avoid making assumptions. What may look like the right direction, judging from the actions of others, does not always end as you might expect. Take the time to learn what you need to do instead of making assumptions. You'll end up in the right place - most of the time.