Moments of Impact

Monday February 15, 2016

This is a well-wrought business book about how to lead workshops.

Moments of Impact

When I got it, I thought this book was about negotiation: how to have conversations that advance your aims. Really by "strategic conversations" the authors mean "conversations about strategy" and care mostly about getting business executives to work together.

In addition to open-ended "let's find a new direction" meetings, the authors spend a lot of time on what are really questions of education. Their guidance is similar to that for running an effective class discussion, setting up small group work, or orchestrating experiential learning.

It would be interesting to know what the effect would be of devoting similar resources toward educating children as toward educating executives.

The subtitle, "How to design strategic conversations that accelerate change", includes the main term the authors are trying to advance: "strategic conversations". I think that in a field with little in the way of new ideas, authors of business books thrive to the extent that they get their phrases to stick. The authors even focus on this kind of phrase-finding in the contents of the book, and I think there's something to it.

The book follows its outline very tightly, and its core outline is this:

Core principles and key practices

  1. Define your purpose
    • Seize your moment
    • Pick one purpose
    • Go slow to go fast
  2. Engage multiple perspectives
    • Assemble a dream team
    • Create a common platform
    • Ignite a controlled burn
  3. Frame the issues
    • Stretch (don't break) mind-sets
    • Think inside different boxes
    • Choose a few key frames
  4. Set the scene
    • Make your space
    • Get visual
    • Do sweat the small stuff
  5. Make it an experience
    • Discover, don't tell
    • Engage the whole person
    • Create a narrative arc

They go through that outline in book form in the first 170 pages, and then again in a "starter kit" (think "CliffsNotes") in the next 60 pages. Frustratingly, very occasionally it seems like things appear in the "starter kit" but not the long form text. Together, the two parts make for a very pleasantly-dimensioned physical book.

A couple quotes:

It's not always easy to point out the obvious so that people will see it. (p. 92)

"Desire, not goal-directedness," [Professor Jeanne Lidtka of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business] writes, "is the true driver of behavioral change." (p. 138)

Org charts are a hoax (p. 142)

... experience is not just the best teacher - it's the only one. (p. 163)

The book is really quite nicely designed by Mine. Mine has a bboy demo reel.