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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Social Innovation by Analogy

Building on yesterday’s post about analogy, it occurs to me there are two types of analogy: Recycled Analogy and Innovative Analogy.

It’s often said that innovation is nothing more than putting together existing concepts in a new way.

Here are some more nuggets from the book Shortcut to illustrate innovation and Innovative Analogy:

Steve Jobs once told Wired magazine that “when you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

And, here is a story about how Steve Jobs came up with the (innovative) analogy of the computer as a ‘bicycle for the mind’.

In a talk that showed the same grand vision but little of the polish that the world would later come to expect of him, Jobs stood behind a lectern and told of “the best analogy I’ve ever heard.” He cited a study reported in Scientific American that calculated the locomotive efficiency of various animals—from fish to mammals to birds—to determine which could travel from A to B with the least expenditure of energy.

The condor won. The condor took the least amount of energy to get from here to there,” Jobs told the audience. “And man didn’t do so well; he came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. But fortunately, someone at Scientific American was insightful enough to test man with a bicycle. And man with a bicycle won—twice as good as the condor. All the way off the list. And what it showed was that man as a toolmaker has the ability to make a tool to amplify an inherent ability that he has. And that’s exactly what we are doing here [at Apple]. It’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

As Jobs described it, Apple was building a “bicycle for the mind”—a tool that could take people’s minds anywhere they could possibly imagine and multiply its power.

Recycled analogies are useful. They provide mental shortcuts and need little explanation. Examples:

  • We’re going to be the Uber of ____
  • This is going to be the Mecca of ___
  • Innovative Analogies are original (imported) concepts. Steve Jobs applied a concept from study in Scientific America! Innovative Analogies might take a little explaining, but they create a new (visionary) frame for the audience.

    I’m starting to think about Innovative Analogy and how it has played out in the social sector. I’m cataloging examples to share in a later post (at which point they will be ‘recycled’). If you have any example, email me.

Creating analogy is one of the most important skillsets in the world.

Humans are unique in that we can we can have an innate ability (and urge) to infer abstract patterns (a.k.a. concepts) and move them from one domain and apply them to another. We do this through analogy.

This ability to gives rise to language, communication, and learning.

Analogies are also at the root of strong sales and leadership. Steve Jobs described the first Mac as a bicycle for the mind. Eisenhower framed the Vietnam conflict in terms of a ‘domino theory.’ The first locomotive was framed as an ‘iron horse.’

We advance concepts by building on existing concepts.

So when was the last time you remember making a study of analogy? Shouldn’t we be studying it constantly?

Start with this book: Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas. I’ve read some 50 books on analogies and metaphor. There are more comprehensive reads, but Shortcut offers a digestible and effective 101 for everyone.

I’m adding it to the required reading list for For Impact leaders.

NB: When we’re helping an organization build a funding message, we include a step in the process to construct analogy. I believe this needs to be a part of every strategic planning, leadership framing, and ‘sales prep’ process.

Sales Team Vocabulary

We’re big on vocab. Team vocabulary is especially important. [Think: CLEAR COMMUNICATION.] Here is some vocabulary for SALES TEAMS. In our roles as coaches, we see a correlation between the adoption of these phrases and the emergence of a true sales culture.

  1. Predisposition: Everything you can do ahead of the visit to make it NOT a cold call or a surprise ask.It’s critical to be able to ask a teammate: “Has this prospect been predisposed?” Or, “Is there any more predisposition we can be doing ahead of the visit?”
  2. Ask: Take some time to define what an ask is with your team. See this Checklist. Most fundraisers don’t make TRUE asks. In the broader sales world, Brian Tracy pointed out that 90% of the time, sales people don’t ask for the order!
  3. Roadmap: As in, “Our goal on this visit is to get a roadmap to the commitment.”There is nothing more frustrating than getting a report from a salesperson that says, “Prospect is not ready yet.” What does that mean?

    Equally frustrating is getting a report that you’ve met with a foundation and been invited to submit a grant request.

    • For how much?
    • Focusing on what program or priority?
    • Including what key language?

    A good salesperson doesn’t always need to leave with a commitment, but he or she should always leave with a commitment, decline, or a roadmap!

  4. “Numbers on the Table”: This is a term that we use to get clarity, e.g., “We were able to get numbers on the table.” Or, “We had a great meeting but it just felt too forced right now to get numbers on the table.”Either way, I can get a great sense of where we are in the sales process and what to make of the report.

    Note: To be clear, we’re almost always trying to get numbers on the table – tied to a project or plan.

  5. Discovery: Discovery is the process of listening and learning about:
    • Relationship (to case or cause)
    • Interests
    • Capacity

    When in discovery mode, there is an even greater emphasis on asking questions, engaging, and listening/learning.

    It’s important to be able to communicate to a partner before a visit, “We’re going to start out HEAVY in discovery mode and then flip to the presentation.”

  6. Visit: A phone call is not a visit. An email is not a visit. Also, being in the presence of a prospect without any attempt to maximize the relationship at this given moment is not a visit.A visit is a structured one-on-one that includes discovery, dialogue around the [plan/vision/program/story], and some progress toward a relationship goal.

    I see too many sales reports that indicate 22 visits for the week when, in fact, all 11 visits were simply ‘points of contact.’

  7. Green Sheet (Dashboard): Each team needs a dashboard – for clarity, speed in communication, and accountability. In fact, with great teams, the dashboard is more important as a fast communication tool than an accountability process.
  8. Commitment: You need to define ‘commitment’ for your organization. I have a loose definition. Anytime I can stand before a board and say, “We can count on Jeff for $X,” this is a commitment. There will always be an ongoing relationship, stewardship, etc. For my definition, I just want to get to the point that I know how the funder plays into the plan (and you could call the funder to verify).This is important especially as you coach each other. “What do we need to do to get the commitment?” This is a great question to smoke out other issues. Maybe there hasn’t really been an ask.

Authenticity: Immediately become a sales expert.

This nugget focuses on the power of one idea: authenticity.

At the For Impact Boot Camp we have everyone practice their presentations, remembering some important keys to success:

  1. Listening (including discovery)
  2. The simple process: Share the story then present the opportunity
  3. Authenticity

I want to highlight authenticity. If you get this one idea it makes you an immediate sales (major gifts) expert!

So many people have call reluctance because they fear “screwing up.” If you are authentic:

  • You can’t mess up – at least not in from which you can’t recover. If you are earnestly communicating an opportunity to save lives, change lives or impact lives how can that be messed up?

    If you’re authentic you can say, “Let me call a time-out and back up. I’m not sure I’m communicating [insert point] clearly.”

  • You have a REAL dialogue. I’ve watched so many people give robot-canned-spiels. That’s not authentic.
  • You tell your own story, not someone else’s. Authenticity allows you to make a wonderful visit your third day on the job. You can say, “This is only my third day with [org] but I’m loving what we’re doing and I’m thrilled (but also a little nervous) to be sitting with you today.”

    How can someone not respect that candor? It also means you don’t have to be the founder or at the organization for 15 years to make a visit.

You will also find authenticity to be incredibly disarming to the person you’re with. It changes the dynamic of the visit from ‘eyeball-to-eyeball’ to ‘shoulder-to-shoulder.’ Think about that dynamic!

Objectives Before Activity

Today’s nugget is simple. It’s simple to say, simple to comprehend… and not simple to PRACTICE.

The nugget (excerpt) comes from Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. (This is a ‘must read’ for every teacher or coach.

Many practices begin with the thought, “What am I going to do tomorrow?” (or even this afternoon!). When you ask this question, you are starting with an activity, not an objective—with the action, not the reason for it. In the end, you can’t decide if an activity is the right one to do until you know why you’re doing it. Instead, start by asking what you are going to accomplish, and then ask what the best route to that goal is. When an objective is made first, before the activity, it guides you in choosing or adapting your activities. When it comes second, after you decide what you’ll do, it is a justification.

Tied to this, is the management system of OKR. Management (and measurement) by Objectives and Key Results. The system is more simple than it is innovative (and that’s a good thing). Here is a good article with a video about how Google manages by Objectives and Key Results.

Conscious processing and non-conscious processing.

Conscious processing can only handle about 120 bits of information at once. This isn’t much. Listening to another person speak can take almost 60 bits. If two people are talking, that’s it — we’ve maxed our bandwidth.

But if we remember that our unconscious can process billions of bits at once then we can *simply* learn to tap into the unconscious to unlock power, insights, and speed. We just can’t tap into that in our normal state.

You don’t need to be on drugs to access that state (although, that’s one way to do it…). Elite athletes do this with regularity. In his prime, Tiger Woods was literally accessing a different part of his brain for the unconscious performance at major tournaments.

Here is a quick fundraising application: Use the For Impact Presentation Flow and Altitude Framework (for your presentation). This gives you a road map for each visit allowing you t be present and listen (using those 160 bits!) Most people are trying to build a road map on-the-fly. To do that, they often sacrifice too much of their conscious processing!

I believe each of us can harness and process the unconscious in our work and daily life. There is so much science coming out right now that explains the ‘how’. We need not be concerned about the rise of machines if we learn to use the full capacity of the head on our shoulders.

NB: ever had a creative insight in the shower? This is because you’ve showered thousands of times. It’s not a conscious activity. That insight was the freedom of your unconscious mind to process, think!

Marketing vs. Sales

In marketing we talk. In sales we listen.

Marketing messages are one-to-many. You create a message and then broadcast that to an audience.

In sales, your message is one-to-one. You can build the message for each audience.

In marketing we choose words. We craft statements we think will create interest and engagement for a common denominator.

In sales, our prospect chooses the words; we listen and use their words to craft the message for a denominator of one.

The goal of marketing is to create qualified leads for sales — if you will: identify potential relationships. The goal of sales is to build and maximize those relationships.

With these distinctions in mind, think about the true skills and focus of your funding efforts. If you want to MAXIMIZE relationships, focus on the skills of sales. Focus on engaging individuals, not audiences. Worry less about the perfect words and focus more on clarity of concepts, and the questions to ask.

Kernel and Context

These are two words we use to frame the presentation.

What’s the kernel of the presentation?

You can think of this as CLEARLY answering these questions:

  • Toward what end? What are you really trying to do? What’s the vision?
  • How will you do that? Where does (or will) the money go?
  • What is the plan to get there and how can I (the prospect) help?


If you were to simply make these points your presentation might feel empty.

Step two is THEN to backfill with CONTEXT… these are key storylines that bring the color, emotion, magic to the presentation.

Examples of contextual storylines:

  • Founder’s Story.
  • Timeline.
  • Impact Statistics.
  • If the kernel builds the LOGIC, the context builds the MAGIC.

    It’s worth noting that this is the same structure used in a sports broadcast. There is play-by-play, followed by color-commentary (and in that order!). We value the first part for the clarity and the second part for the context.

    Use this two frames to help you think clearly about your message or funding presentation.

The Three Pillars of the Funding Experience

“Message is what people hear, it’s not what people say.” – Frank Luntz

Going further with this idea, we (at For Impact) would say ENGAGEMENT results from what people EXPERIENCE; it’s not just what people HEAR.

As it relates to sales (or really any type of engagement), clearly we need to think about more than message. We need to conceptualize the TOTAL EXPERIENCE: MESSAGE, APPROACH, and CONTEXT.

Let’s think about the EXPERIENCE of the ASK.

  • Message: It needs to be simple. You need a strong story and a clear funding rationale.
  • Approach: Your results will depend on whether your are delivering this ‘message’ to a room full of people — or to another individual one-on-one. Engagement will be 10X higher if you visit one-on-one! Moreover, if you really home in on the SCIENCE of ENGAGEMENT (dialogue, use of visuals, listening, etc.), we know that engagement can be 30X higher than if you delivered the message to an audience from a stage.
  • Context: Any comedian will tell you CONTEXT IS CRITICAL. This is why they do warm-up acts (PREDISPOSITION). WHERE you do the ask matters. As does WHO is doing the ask. SNL Creator Lorne Michaels famously coaches new cast members: The Beatles had to play Love Me Do before they created The White Album. A veteran SNL rock star has more audience leeway with message (jokes) and approach (skits) than a newbie.Conventional wisdom often says a board member should be the person to ‘make the ask.’ We don’t think that’s true!!! What’s (universally) true is that context matters, and that the leadership needs to be represented as part of the ask process.

    Conventional wisdom is weak in terms of message and approach, and so it tries to overcompensate by putting the responsibility for engagement on the shoulders of the board member.

If you’re struggling with commitments — a form of ENGAGEMENT — think about where you can improve in these three areas of the experience: message, approach and context.

If you still need help, speak to one of our coaches (reply to this email). We offer a select number of (free) coaching calls for alumni and readers of the WOW emails each month. This is our method of impacting the sector and building relationships through the WOW readership.

Identity and Work

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading about the intersections of meaning, value (creation), and work.

Today’s nugget is from Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

“When we define ourselves by our work, by our dedication and effectiveness and willingness to go the extra mile, then it’s easy to see rest as the negation of all those things. If your work is your self, when you cease to work, you cease to exist.”