I’ve said this before, but I really don’t read many books that would be categorized as “business books.” I mostly read them when they’re written by folks I know well, or when they’re particularly recommended by folks I think highly of. I got to see Chip Heath talk at the d.school last year and he was incredibly, super-compelling. Chip & his brother have done a ton of research into what makes ideas “sticky.” That is, why do certain messages resonate with us while others you can hear over & over & over and not ever remember. They started by looking at urban legends — maybe the stickiest messages we have around — and found that a number of characteristics are common to each of the stories: they’re simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and are stories. He also mentions that, in very many cases, the more you know about something, the less able you are to market it effectively: it’s called the curs of knowledge. (Incidentally, my own view is that this is something that the Democratic Party in the US suffers from.)
lots of monkeying around with layout & colors still. the blog is going to be unstable for a while, so bear with me if i introduce some unreadable schemes….
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i attended a city council meeting today for the first time — and spoke on behalf of something i’m working on. it was a very strange experience, and a ton of thoughts come to mind.
first: wacky physical layout. the city council sits in chairs above everyone — chairs that i sit in when i’m on the library board. i have to say that i don’t like them either sitting in them or presenting to them. it’s an uncomfortable formality that really highlights the difference between council & the people. seems wrong to me.
the other thing that feels strange is that it’s not really a conversation. it’s a series of people talking. order matters. showing up matters. participating matters. but it’s not really set up to have a reasonable dialog. the laws in california — in particular the brown act — are structured to make everything transparent and accountable, but not to engender good group decision-making or collaboration. it’s about mobilization, coordination, and getting the message across to a set of people who make the call. it isn’t necessarily about finding good solutions to problems.
but that might be a fundamental misunderstanding on my part of what civic life is about. my experience tonight has highlighted for me that it’s completely, wholly alien to my daily work life. it also highlights that as our family becomes more attached to this city and this place — as we endeavor to become citizens in all meanings — that i have a great deal to learn about how to be effective and productive.
that’s why i got involved with the Library Board in the first place, so i’m glad to learn these lessons.
[i’d write more about some of the specific issues involved tonight, except for 2 reasons: (1) i’m a little unsure of my responsibilities under the brown act in terms of talking about positions & such, and (2) it was a set of emotional talks given by people who have lived in Sunnyvale for a long time and who care very much about it, and giving my emotional reaction, while it’d be therapeutic, would be counter-productive to over-emote in this blog. proof that i can learn. :-)]
update: i wrote all the above during the public discussion part of the meeting. once that was over, the council did their wrangling for a while, and that was actually fantastic & pretty productive, although still weird for me.