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VOICES is about listening. It is easy to hear but difficult to acknowledge the voices around us. We can experience the sounds but not always the meanings. This blog hopes to adjust our collective filters, stimulating questions and promoting conversation about ideas both professional and personal.

Common Knowledge

Common Knowledge

England and America are two countries separated by a common language. When Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw put his finger on our unique cultural paradox he identified a symptom, not a virus.

The same condition can be seen among individuals. While there are no absolutes, some tend to see things as they are and others tend see things as they wish them to be. Half of the time one is surprised, the other disappointed and vice-versa. Another symptom of the same virus is not consumption but assumption.

The phrase “Common Knowledge” represents the actual virus. The concept of “Knowledge” — awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact — is not in question. The assumption is that the knowledge in question is common to all. There’s the rub.

There are several distinct kinds of knowledge. Problems, misunderstandings and even disasters occur when we fail to recognize that the different kinds of knowledge have very little in common. “Common” means shared by or coming from a community or the public. Without specific and shared experiences assumptions replace real knowledge.

Successful enterprises get good at what they do over time by earning the knowledge that helps make them better than others. They just know more. So much so, they forget how much they know that their customers, suppliers and even their employees and shareholders don’t know about what they do that makes them special.

The use of vernacular and colloquial language is inevitable among colleagues that work closely with one another. Dialects, idioms, slang and jargon become unconscious substitutes for more explanatory speech. This is to say nothing of the acronyms and abbreviations served up in an alphabet soup by every government and institution worldwide.

We lose the essence of sharing knowledge when we forget to connect with our audiences. Businesses and organizations that prepare, package and present what they do in ways that can be accepted and appreciated demonstrate respect and consideration for their audiences. With this extra effort to connect, customers learn what they need to know to choose one brand instead of another and to offer loyalty to one before another.

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Missives

Opportunity has little to do with whether the glass is half empty or half full. Opportunity is about the contents of the glass and what we do with it. While each opportunity is different, the process for capitalizing on those opportunities is almost always the same: act before forced to react. Act before economic conditions are perfect, before your people are fully prepared, before your customers have recognized their wants or needs and before your competitors are ready.

Noted & Notable

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

By Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink, the working man’s Malcolm Gladwell, has written a new book called DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Like his first book A Whole New Mind, Pink points out connections between the obscure and the obvious. His book pits the latest scientific discoveries about the mind against the outmoded wisdom that claims people can only be motivated by the hope of gain and the fear of loss. Pink packages ideas into applications providing employers and employees with the methods and the means to get more of what they want, the way they want it. Don’t let the cover design scare you off. This is career-changing stuff.

Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days

By Dr. Kevin Leman

In Dr. Kevin Leman’s book Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days, he insists that the only way to correct bad behavior in children is to change your reactions to their behavior. Anyone who has dealt with a strong-willed child knows that it is no easy task to turn bad behavior around. Bestselling author and psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman can help to make a difference. With his signature wit and encouragement, Dr. Leman offers hope and real, practical, doable strategies for regaining control and becoming the parents our children need. Not to say that badly behaved adults are like children but the application of Dr. Leman’s ideas to adult relationships with similar issues is a bonus.

Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy

By Jane Leavy

You don’t need to be a fan of professional baseball to appreciate to a true professional. Jane Leavy’s book Sandy Koufax, A Lefty’s Legacy has more to do with the man and his choices that any game. Professional sports are all about the numbers. In his last four seasons Sandy Koufax’s numbers were the best ever. With a career half as long as the average pitcher, Koufax set a standard for performance that was twice as successful as any pitcher of his era. However, Koufax the person transcends the player by keeping the game he loved in perspective with who he was.
One example: In 1965, Sandy Koufax refused to pitch in Game One of the World Series because it was Yom Kippur, a Jewish holy day. Koufax’s decision and his pitching brilliance remain a source of pride among devout American Jews, even those who aren’t baseball fans. Unable to sustain that same level of performance for health reasons, Sandy retired one year later at the peak of his career. He became the youngest player ever to be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. Sandy Koufax defined success on his own terms, using is own standards.

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

By Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim

Much of what goes on in sports can be explained by incentives, fears and a desire for approval. You just have to know where to look. Scorecasting is the sports equivalent of Freakonomics. Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim have written the most important and fascinating sports book in years. Athletes and coaches are encouraged to challenge conventional strategies with calculated risks, producing unconventional results. Just like in life, a little risk is usually a very worthwhile thing.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

By Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, explains for the novice and explores for the devotee the mysteries behind the black robes. It articulates the rise of the conservative movement through the legal world and its acceleration in 2005 with the death of Justice Rehnquist and resignation of Justice O’Connor within a few months of each other. This is a fascinating story about complex and brilliant jurists who are equally spoiled and elevated by the human condition.

All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge

By Kee Malesky

What is plastic soup? How long is a New York minute? What building did Elvis leave last? Who were the Olmecs, and the Eight Immortals? Get the answers to these and many other vexing questions in NPR librarian Kee Malesky’s compendium of fascinating facts on subjects ranging from history to science to the arts. It’s the ideal gift for every inquiring mind that wants to know.

The Art of the Idea: And How it Can Change Your Life.

By John Hunt

John Hunt’s unassuming book is all about how to see, the art of observation and what we gain by taking the time to experience the everyday in new and unexpected ways. This is not a “feel good” book, something left over from the 60s, but a beautifully written and illustrated owner’s manual for our own senses. Instructive? Yes. Inventive and imaginative? For sure. Chapters like Lemmings Have Plans Too and Expediency is Not an Idea are but a few subjects worthy of your time.

A Fine Line: How design strategies are shaping the future of business

By Hartmut Esslinger / founder of Frog Design

After getting past Hartmut Esslinger's (Frog Design) sometimes condescending-sounding manner, he has a great deal to say worth hearing. Filled with process-driven strategies that are almost clairvoyant, reading the book is like hanging on to a bucking bronco. Sony, Apple and Lufthansa did and gained financially and culturally.

Outliers

Outliers

By Malcolm Gladwell

The latest book from Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink is the best of the three. Outliers focuses on identifying success and failure in all of their forms and conditions. His book is smart, fun and disturbing. Readers will discover that the distance between winners and losers is about 10,000 hours of work plus the luck of circumstances and your birthday. There are several Aha! moments that if applied might change your life.

A Whole New Mind

A Whole New Mind

by Daniel H Pink

Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind, Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future is worth your time. Left-brain skills (logical, analytical, sequential), while still necessary, are becoming a commodity, Pink argues, while right-brain talents (artistic, empathic, more about context than content) will be at a premium in the future. Pink writes with charm and humor about subjects that heretofore were rarely, if ever, charming or funny.