LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

December 24, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 26

"How-to" tips and advice on increasing business prosperity, published every other Thursday.

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Season's Greetings!

- Feature Article: Getting Unstuck: Tips for Overcoming "Decision Gridlock"

- Note from the Author: "Sticking" or "Getting Stuck"?

- Special Message: Six Ways to Make Your Ideas Stick

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Note from the Author

Are You "Sticking" or "Getting Stuck"?

Examples of projects held together with glueWhen is it important to get something to "stick," and when do we want to avoid becoming "stuck"?

Today's Special Message lists six ways to create the kinds of memorable ideas that people can't stop discussing or thinking about. In many cases, "sticky" ideas become the glue that binds people together and provides the inspiration to tackle a major project, respond favorably to a message, or make a buying decision.

Then, today's Feature Article introduces the theme of decision-making by suggesting ways to move forward whenever you happen to feel stymied by personal or business decisions. Our vast array of choices often makes it difficult to make any decision at all, and we can spend endless hours thinking and re-thinking about what to do, or when to do it.

For these reasons, I hope you enjoy today's issue, including the article, "Getting Unstuck: Tips for Overcoming 'Decision Gridlock.'" And please don't forget to join the conversation by leaving your comments on my blog!

Here's to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, author of the "Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance" success program

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, visit the newsletter index!

Special Message

Six Ways to Make Your Ideas Stick

"Made to Stick" by Chip Heath and Dan HeathIn a fascinating new book, "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die," authors (and brothers) Chip Heath and Dan Heath artfully explain their findings about why some ideas become indelibly etched in our minds and others don't.

The degree to which ideas embody a trait called "stickiness" -- a term coined by Malcolm Gladwell in "The Tipping Point" -- often determines their effectiveness and staying power in influencing our behavior and buying decisions. Whether we are talking about urban legends and myths (which are social stories that persist long after they are proved to be untrue), visions (such as President Kennedy's famous goal in 1961 to "put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade"), slogans, ad campaigns, or other types of communication, the authors have identified six factors that contribute significantly to making ideas memorable:

1. Simplicity (not just in terms of sound bites, but also in terms of the profoundness of the message -- does it come across with the impact of a parable or proverb?)

2. Unexpectedness (using stark contrasts or surprising descriptions not only to grab immediate attention, but also to create longer-term interest and curiosity)

3. Concreteness (emphasizing basic, real-life physical elements, such as "putting a man on the moon"; and decoding abstractions through the use of metaphors, such as "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush")

4. Credibility (getting ideas to somehow prove themselves through an invitation to "try out this idea and see whether you experience X results," rather than relying only on statistical data, quoting an authority figure, or using third-party endorsements)

5. Emotions (triggering powerful visceral reactions such as compassion, inspiration, disgust, angst, shock, or distrust to make messages unforgettable and actionable)

6. Stories (using case studies, anecdotes, endorsements, and descriptive accounts to provide memorable details and convey clues about how to act on the ideas)

In the book, the authors include templates and guidelines based on these six factors to help you make your own ideas even "stickier"!

Feature Article

Getting Unstuck: Tips for Overcoming "Decision Gridlock"
by Adele Sommers

Pondering a chess moveHave you ever felt so stymied by your choices that every time you stared down at your "personal chessboard of life," you weren't sure where you could possibly make a move?

If so, you're in good company, since that's where many of us find ourselves at one time or another.

And whether that feeling of being "stuck" relates to business, personal matters, or both, it can serve to encumber our progress. This article discusses two patterns of "situational gridlock," and what to do about them.

Pattern #1: Worrying Incessantly about the "Perfect" Move

I call this pattern "pondering perfection" because every possibility appears to have potential, yet none seems to stand out as the clearest candidate for action. You may want to be so absolutely, positively sure that you're heading in the right direction that instead, you experience "analysis paralysis."

Take Anna's situation, for instance. She sees a myriad of possibilities for starting a business. Yet without knowing how to identify a business purpose that's ideally suited to her life passions and strengths, she doesn't have enough information to make a selection. Every option seems as likely as any other. She's uncertain of whether to simply try something, because it could be expensive to switch later if her first choice doesn't work.

Robert, on the other hand, dreads the idea of failure if he picks any direction that doesn't produce immediate success. His parents had always insisted that he should decide what he wanted to do in life before leaving high school. But Robert is multi-talented with many different interests. Ever since high school, he's been unable to pinpoint any single direction. Recalling his parents' constant criticism, he often feels immobilized when faced with choices. For Robert, it's so much easier to think, plan, and daydream than pursue any learning activity, career, or business venture that might turn out to be "wrong."

Chess pieces on a boardFor Anna's and Robert's situations, I recommend breaking the situation into much smaller pieces that present little or no risk to try. The first step can involve gathering more information -- an extremely powerful action!

Based on what you learn at little or no expense other than your time, you can explore many possibilities.

So, ask yourself the following:

  • What steps can I take to investigate, study, or "test drive" my interests? Consider conducting some Internet research to become more familiar with the options. If you're considering a new business, start researching your target audience and learn what competing or comparable businesses have to offer.
  • Whom can I interview, observe, or assist to see what kindles my interest and seems most aligned with my strengths? Consider contacting some of the subject matter experts whose information you read online. Most people would be flattered to answer sincere inquiries about their areas of expertise. Local experts might happily let you observe them in action, and may even endorse your writing an article about your findings. They, or members of professional groups, could become your most supportive advisors or mentors.

Pattern #2: The Desired Move Seems Too Intimidating (or Too Simple)

Are you setting the bar too high in the short term? I firmly believe in identifying a "grand vision" that aligns our life passions with an overarching business idea -- one that has the potential to engage us in a very full and satisfying existence over time. But when we set major goals that are so challenging, there is only a small chance of achieving them quickly, we can easily lose enthusiasm unless we plan the process incrementally.

Look at Christina's situation. Her longtime dream is to launch a business that caters to professionals who groom, train, and exercise pets. She foresees the potential for a large-scale operation with international franchises. Her grand vision is so rich and comprehensive that she can visualize every detail.

Chess pieces wrestling with each otherBut because of the size and complexity of her vision, Christina feels intimidated about how to move forward.

  • Pursuing her dream in its entirety would be very expensive and time-consuming.
  • On the other hand, pursuing anything less than her grand vision seems too simple, and therefore unworthy.

Can she find a solution to her "all or nothing" dilemma?

In this situation, I suggest a two-pronged approach:

  • First, develop a "grand vision build-out plan" that has flexible phases or modules. View the plan from a top-down and bottom-up perspective.

    Top-down planning can provide the structure for major activities that need to occur. Keep in mind, however, that over time, circumstances, requirements, technology, markets, and other factors can change considerably. That's why top-down planning doesn't cement every detail, but acts as a framework.

    Bottom-up planning can identify the specific actions you can take today that will move you forward, regardless of what shifts in the future. For example, do you need to develop an Internet presence and start building a subscriber list? Then you could start by creating informational content that will establish your credibility and begin attracting an audience. Also consider conducting surveys, field tests, and/or pilot programs to validate your assumptions about what the audience needs and wants. What you learn will help clarify your grand plan!
  • Second, build momentum with each small step. Set your expectations fairly low, and each time you achieve a short-term goal, set a new one and continue to let momentum carry you forward. Just as in the game of football, every yard you gain boosts the total score. Taking one step forward -- in any direction -- will produce satisfying accomplishments that lead to more small steps. By pacing yourself, gaining traction, and developing a rhythm, you'll have fun instead of turning your dream into an oppressive chore!

In conclusion, taking small, low-risk steps can help you blast through "situational gridlock" and start feeling great about your progress. Instead of fearing failure, see yourself as a researcher running a series of inexpensive experiments. By gathering data, interviewing, observing, planning, and testing ideas incrementally, you'll create "building blocks," generate momentum, and lay a solid foundation for success.

Copyright 2009 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

The Paradox of Choice

"The Paradox of Choice" by Barry SchwartzAre you often confronted with too many choices -- such as the same ones that can cause "situational gridlock," above? It's not surprising! According to Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, decision-making today is much more complex and stressful than it was 30 years ago. Not only are there more products and services to choose from, but also many new options to ponder in life.

One of many valuable observations in the book pertains to people who spend endless amounts of time making "perfect" buying decisions. Perfectionists often feel less satisfied with their purchases than people who pick something that's "good enough."

People who then stick with their decisions -- rather than agonizing over what else they could have considered or done differently -- are also happier than those who second-guess themselves by continuing to compare possibilities long after they've made their choices.

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of "Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance" -- an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today's issue, you'll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It's accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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