Limiting Beliefs and Growing Future Vision

Guy Kawasaki. Photo ©Jocelyn Canfield

Yesterday I saw Guy Kawasaki speak on the subject of innovation. Guy was at Apple computer in its early days and today is a prolific business author and venture capitalist who listens to countless pitches on ideas for new products and businesses.

One of the points Kawasaki made was how limiting beliefs and narrow thinking can result in lost opportunities…He cited:

  • the 1876 internal memo from Western Union stating that “the telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered a means of communication”
  • the 1943 quote from Thomas Watson of IBM that he stated there is “a world market  for maybe five computers”
  • the 1977 quote from Ken Olson of Digital Equipment Corp that there was “no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.”

In hindsight, of course, it’s easy to see that these statements demonstrate limited vision. But this is what many of us do when we look through the blinders of the status quo. Kawasaki shared his own worst example of that kind – of what he calls bozo thinking. He was invited to interview for the CEO position of Yahoo in its very early days. His response to the opportunity was that it was “too far to drive and he didn’t see how it can be a business.” Convinced the job would have been his, he believes that narrow thinking about the potential of the company cost him about $2 Billion had he taken on the role of CEO.

How can we expand our vision and open our minds to the world as it could become? To the potential of the new technologies that are already in existence? To the ways in which our jobs are being transformed by technology and the economy? What skills can we develop to have better future vision and develop ourselves to step into tomorrow?  I believe in the importance of creating thinking time to consider opportunities before us and ahead of us so that when our own  “Yahoo opportunity” comes along, it won’t seem like too far to drive.

Jocelyn Canfield, ABC
Communication Results


Pro Bono with Passion and Purpose


Taken at a Native American Powwow by Jocelyn Canfield

Many consultants I know receive frequent requests to take on non-paying work. Because I could spend all of my waking hours doing pro bono work, I have become much more selective about the projects I take on. The project has to ignite my passion or represent a growth opportunity…in other words, it has to serve my needs as well as the organization making the request.

Consider how volunteer activities can advance  your sense personal satisfaction – and your career. I know many professionals who are currently unemployed. In what way can you reach out to organizations who could benefit from your expertise and who may be in desperate need of help? Consider opportunities which may allow you to network to your own professional benefit, or that may build skills in an area that you want to develop. Volunteering can boost your business and your sense of satisfaction.

My next project satisfies my passion and my desire for growth: I am about to accompany a team of veterinarians to two Native American reservations in New Mexico. I will be photographing the people and animals these vets are helping…people who have no financial ability to pay for veterinary services but who are reliant on their livestock to create a better standard of living. This project was a strong fit for me on many levels. I have a deep sensitivity for native Americans, a passion for animals and I love the southwest. I have also been looking for a meaty photography project to inspire a book of my photos.

The vet who organized the trip and invited my participation likens life on these reservations to a third world country. Pets sustain wounds and injuries which go untreated. Feral dogs roam and prey on livestock which are critical to the livelihood of the people. These reservations have virtually no access to veterinary care other than these periodic volunteer visits.

One thing that I have learned is that strong imagery enhances awareness and can be a catalyst for change. Because of this, I am in the midst of starting an organization called Photo Mission to provide creative support to causes that otherwise couldn’t afford to commission work to tell their story…which in turn would contribute to their success. If you want to support my work helping others, through a donation or sponsorship, please reach out to me.

On Becoming Extinct

00011387phoneWatching trends is critical to remaining relevant in business. I received an email this morning detailing 25 things that are going the way of the drive-in movie theater. It listed a few things that made me nostalgic, like the closing of local swimming holes due to lawsuits and the decline of family farming in favor of agribusiness.

Many items on the watch list relate to media and communications and make me think of the revolutionary changes in the years since I left college, where my first news writing course was in a classroom with manual typewriters and I learned graphic design with a T-square and X-acto knife. Here are a few items on the endangered list:

– Yellow Pages directory. Think online alternatives to this hefty waste of paper.
– Newspaper classified ads. Think Craig’s list and FREE.
– News magazines and TV news. Think immediacy of internet news.
– Movie rental stores. Think Netflix.
-Telephone land lines. Think cell phones and Skype.
-Film cameras. Digital is here to stay.
-Hand-written letters. Think 210 billion emails/day.

What if I had stayed in the newspaper business my whole career? What if I relied on yellow pages advertising and nothing else to grow my design business? The trends listed above are fairly obvious today. But what trends are just appearing on the horizon that could change the way you do business next month or next year?

-Can your work be easily offshored or replaced by a cheaper alternative? A friend just returned from Malaysia where he trained people to do his former co-worker’s jobs at a fraction of the cost. But nurses are still in demand.
– Is your service easier to find and cheaper on the internet?  I can buy a quality stock photo for $10 that I would have paid $250 to a traditional stock agency for a few years ago and $500 to have shot by a photographer 20 years ago. Custom portrait work cannot be offshored.

What changes to your service line can you make now to help ensure your long term success? What shifts in your marketing approach are needed to address the changing media landscape? What training are you lacking to stay abreast of change?

The Positive in Every Situation

bigstockphoto_lemonade_3393603A member of a LinkedIn group questioned the degree to which the media are guilty of fueling the fire of our economic downtown with incendiary headlines like, “Consumer Confidence Plummets.” My feeling is that the media ARE complicit in fueling that fire and my response to his query talked about the failure of the media to seek balance in their reporting. I have not seen a lot of headlines about companies that are doing well in this economy…companies who are innovating, making good business choices and navigating the turbulent waters. These companies ARE out there and they are the ones that will emerge on the other side in a strengthened position.

I believe in the statement about life being like a camera…whatever you focus on develops. Sure, there is plenty of negative out there. But think of the abundance of innovative responses to these challenging times! These times are NOT going to reward the whiners and worriers. I personally have been engaging in a wide variety of new marketing efforts…trying new things, reaching out to new people, evaluating all of my opportunities and looking to create new ones. As a result I have connected with new people, landed new work and put in place new strategies for growth.

Never forget the importance of your attitude in determining your destiny.

© 2009 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

Selecting and Working with a Graphic Designer

Brochure for a University Arboretum. Design by Communication Results

Brochure for a University Arboretum. By Communication Results

Lots of great offline feedback to my last post, Why Design Matters. Designers and writers can be great partners for improving communication effectiveness and meeting business goals. Following these tips can improve your communication tools and your business results:

Focus on audience and outcome. What do you want someone to do as a result of your piece? This is where you should start when determining how to approach any tool you need to put together. First ask, “Is this the appropriate vehicle or venue to reach decision makers?” Then, “What do I want the reader to feel or do as a result?”

Hire a designer who understands business communications. Your designer should understand that the role of business communications is to influence behavior and achieve business objectives. Err on the side of a designer with a communication degree rather than (or in addition to) an art degree. You need someone who will read and even challenge your copy and grasp your intent. If you are using an outside design firm, make sure they clearly understand the culture of your organization and have a sense of your current visual identity. Many designers come with their own “look.” What you need is designer who can create or work within YOUR look.

Newsletter design for a law firm. Designed by Communication Results.

Newsletter design for a law firm. By Communication Results.

Leave time in the production schedule for design. Since design is a close-to-last stop, designers are often asked to make up lost time in the production schedule. Leave time for your designer to read copy and develop clarity around the goals of the piece. It is helpful if the content owner or client has been thinking visually and has secured available photos or at least cleared the path for the designer to set up photography or art.

Simplify your message and your visual presentation. Remember two important facts: Most people live in a constant state of information overload. Because of this, people skim—they don’t read. The writer should ruthlessly pare down the copy before it gets to the design phase. Some designers can help you simplify your message. My personal design goal is this: if no one reads a word of your body copy, are they still getting your message through the pictures, heads/subheads and captions? These are pieces that I am usually developing or honing for my client.

Design also needs to be simplified. Today I see frequent examples in which design is more about “maxing out” technology/fonts than it is about focusing on the needs of the reader.

Learn the Language. The writer or project manager should learn how to communicate with a designer. Remember that design possibilities are infinite. Have an idea about what you want. “I’ll know it when I see it,” is not clear direction. Even sharing sample of things you like and don’t like is a great help to your designer.

Understanding the value added by graphic design will help you to forge a better partnership with your designer, which will ultimately improve message delivery and lead to better business results.

© 2009 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

This article originally appeared in IABC’s Communication World Bulletin

Why Design Matters


Engaging design helped to draw employees in to learn more about their company's product – a sealing adhesive with an elastomer that provides the cohesion needed to keep ice cream cold. Huh? (Design by Communication Results)

Design influences everything, from your decision to purchase a $4.25 cup of coffee at that appealing new café to which direct mail offers you bother to open and the articles you choose to read in your favorite magazine.

As a business communicator, my job is to influence opinion or change behavior in order to achieve business objectives. To accomplish this, people need to interact with my client’s message. A page of 10-point Times New Roman text is seldom compelling, so what you are left with to persuade people to read a publication or advertisement or to engage in a website, is design.

Color, photos, illustrations, and engaging feature copy are what entice viewers to care enough to consider the message. Design and copy hold equal importance in the communication process, but companies are more likely to have a staff writer than a staff designer. I do both writing and design, so I  understand the need for balance.

Why does design matter?

Design differentiates. Design creates and clarifies an organization’s identity. Design should fit the culture of your firm and should convey a genuine sense of who you are. Beware the designer who campaigns for a trendy new looks. Develop an identity and stick to it. You’ll tire of it long before your customers do. That Nike swoosh has been around for a long time. The Coke and Pepsi logos haven’t changed much since I was a child.

Design organizes and gives meaning. Without design, your favorite magazine would be gray text with no indication of where one article stops and the next one begins. Design should clarify the message of your article and invite the skimmer to spend more time. Good design will make things easy to find on your website.

Design solves problems. Say you have three major points to convey in 1,200 words. The reader may never invest four minutes to read your copy. Consider cutting the story back to 400 words to free up space for a strong headline, photos or illustrations and captions that can get your point across in 10 seconds and perhaps entice the customer to read every one of those 400 words. Consider making the visual elements and captions tell the full story on their own. The narrative should expand on the visuals for those willing to invest the time. This applies to publications, websites and even advertisements.

Design conjures emotion. To win customers and create brand loyalty, you need to make an emotional connection. Consumers are willing to pay $4.25 for a cup of coffee that they could brew at home for eight cents because the interior design supports an experience that makes them feel good and invites them to linger. People feel more emotionally connected (brand loyal) to an organization that uses good design practices. I have been a passionate Apple computer user for more than 20 years because their products are exceptionally well designed, they support the way that I think and they make my life easier.

It is important for writers and marketers to interact effectively with designers and to engage in a give and take that supports better communication.

© 2009 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

This article originally appeared in IABC’s Communication World Bulletin

What Fires You Up?

kickupheels2I was checking in recently with my accountability partner on progress toward our goals. (We talk every Monday about our goals for the week and performance over the prior week.) She is making major changes in her life and is in that in-between stage of still working full time for a company while she readies herself to launch her own business.

Despite the long hours she is putting in, she commented that she is “so freaking excited” about working toward her dream job that she jumps out of bed early every day eager to make progress on her goals! We should all have that same level of enthusiasm while working two full-time jobs!

When we give ourselves permission to do work that resonates with our heart, we have the potential to have the same kind of enthusiasm. Certain work that I do gives me this level of excitement. There are also quite a few projects filed away in my brain that have the potential to spark that level of excitement. How can we bring these projects to the forefront, especially when time is at a premium?

I frequently hear people talking about what they will do “when they have time.” What I have learned is that time seldom materializes in large blocks. It is important to learn to take advantage of small bites of time in order to make gradual progress toward your goals and dreams and put my friend’s level of excitement into your workday.

– What if just one morning a week, you spent 30 minutes on your project?
– What if you gave up watching one sporting event on TV to work on your project?
– What if you spent an hour before breakfast one day each weekend?

If you do all three of these, you’ve just created four hours of time each week to accomplish something important to you!

Take Action Challenge: Consider where you can find small bites of time in your schedule to make progress toward a project or goal. What ho-hum activities are you willing to give up to get to the level of excitement my friend has?

© 2009 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC