I recently attended my first Clever Happenings event, ‘How to Think like a Thought Leader’. Clever Happenings is a monthly think-tank run by Dr Jason Fox with a focus on ‘slow thinking for fast ideas’.
I was attracted to this particular event as it focused on how to think like a thought leader. It interested me because thought leaders are great at captivating their audience and, in many cases, helping them become comfortable with ideas that challenge their beliefs.
There was a lot to take in during the session. Dr Fox imparted wisdom about what it means to think like a thought leader and discussed ways to connect with audiences. At one point he mentioned that the session was ‘like drinking from a fire hose’, but everyone was able to take in most of what was being covered.
I particularly enjoyed his thoughts on statistics:
“Statistics are like confusing, magic, glittery dust – we love them” – Dr. Jason Fox
Amidst the models, ideas, and magic glittery dust, there were two key topics that really resonated with me.
The Two Lenses of a Thought Leader
The idea here is that thought leaders read and listen to ideas a little differently than most people. When presented with a piece of information, most people will just absorb some of it. They will read it, make the cognitive connections needed to remember it and move on. On the other hand, a thought leader absorbs information through two lenses; the ‘yeah, but…’ lens and the ‘yeah, and…’ lense.
For example when reading something, at various points a thought leader will be thinking ‘yeah, but this may not work if X and Y happen’ and at other points ‘yeah, and if X and Y happen this will be even more awesome’.
Dr. Fox commented that sometimes he will go as far as having two different highlighters handy when reading material, one for ‘yeah, but…’ and one for ‘yeah, and…’
This concept is particularly interesting as it can be applied to not only the initial engagement with a client but also the initial design stages of a solution. As you uncover the details of what a client is looking for, or the needs of their business, it is necessary to be able to critically think about what is being said and using these two lenses. This same critical thinking is needed when designing a solution, to ensure it is well thought out and will ultimately be successful.
How Thought Leaders Communicate
Another key aspect is being able to deliver your message about an idea or concept in various ways, to cater to various audiences.
At a high level, the idea is that while you should have one short ‘A statement’ (a single sentence describing your idea), you need to have different ‘B statements’ that help define the idea in more detail to different audience types. Having different statements that utilise Models, Metaphors, Statistics or Stories will ensure you have a way of articulating the idea effectively to different audience types.
It’s all about making what you are saying relevant and relatable to the person you are speaking to, so they have a way of connecting with the idea. During this discussion, one of the terms mentioned was that you needed to have something ‘concrete’ for the audience to connect with.
This was the ‘Aha!’ moment for me on the topic of communicating like a thought leader and I was immediately inspired to draw an image of a balloon tied to brick.