Monthly Archives: September 2013
When we are young we believe anything. If, like me, you have small children you have already seen this in action. They will believe literally anything. They can believe anything.
This inherent naivety or open-mindedness is key to development. Without it, we cannot discover or learn anything new. We need first to be able to treat new concepts before later discarding them as “wrong” or ill-fitting to our own reality.
As we grow older, we develop the capacity to distinguish fact from make-believe. We know (spoiler alert!) that Father Christmas probably doesn’t really come down the chimney and we congratulate ourselves on our ability to be reasonable.
But being “reasonable” is in itself the first pre-requisite for being closed-minded and too much of it leads to lack of innovation and inability to change. Copernicus was unreasonable, as were the people who wanted to put a man on the moon and anyone who thought a computer-game couldn’t load faster than a Commodore 64 did it.
So why do we trade pure open-mindedness for “reason”, new for old and creativity for stability?
I suspect the answer is about security or “blending-in”. and it is highly linked to values. Classical schools still today prefer to teach everyone to the same curriculum and anyone who doesn’t fit in has failed. Seeing things differently is not the point. Most corporations don’t do much better. Idioms like “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” and the wish to maintain current processes in the name of “quality” and customer satisfaction are designed to ensure that things get done the same tomorrow. Attached to our own ideas of what is “good”, we start to live on autopilot.
Wouldn’t a little more childishness do some good?
Too many numbers, lack of focus and bad formatting make tables impossible to understand and energy consuming for your audience. Follow these 8 simple tips to make effective tables that you can use with pride in your presentation.
If you need to present numbers, you may believe (like me and Gene Zelazny) that graphs and visuals are the best way to go. But if you (your company or audience) are number-hungry, maybe you’ll still need to include a table in your presentation from time-to-time.
But PLEASE: Don’t let it look like this…
This is the kind of table that might drive Don McMillan mad in “Death by PowerPoint” . It is bad because there is no message, there is too much data and nothing stands out.
If you insist upon including such a “raw-data” table somewhere in the appendices or giving it as a hand-out for the finance guys, then at least make it look like this:
…or this, if you like a bit of colour …
To achieve an effective raw-data table like the ones above, consider the following 5 tips:
- Differentiate row and table headers with different font formatting
- Add background colouring to cells to seperate columns or distinguish headers from data
- Put totals in a different font, or in bold
- Use more white space to separate chunks of data
- Make cells large enough to have some white space around the numbers
…now you have a nice raw-data table for your appendix or hand-out.
But if you are presenting numbers with tables as an integral part of your presentation, you cannot drown your audience with large data like the tables above. Follow these additional 3 tips to bring a clear message and focus to your numbers:
- Identify your main message and make it the title for the table
- Remove any irrelevant data – other numbers can always be seen in the appendix
- Highlight anything that needs to stand out using formatting
Applied to the numbers in the raw-data table above, with a specific message in mind creates a table more like this:
So, if you want to make effective tables that you can use with pride in your presentation, concentrate on your key message, reduce useless data and bring more focus to what counts.
Thanks for reading!
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This is an angry blog-post, fuelled by failure and feeling lost.
Trying to “get what you want” and “achieve goals” has driven me mad.
At the age of 35, I’ve had enough.
It may have started with my parents, who either pushed me towards goals or didn’t stop me from my own endless pursuit of the achievement of goals. It continued in school, where top grades were sought out for no reason but their own apparent top-grade value. And since day one in the corporate world, it has been shoved down my throat by Covey-inspired managers …and later reinforced by performance bonuses and general back-slapping. It hasn’t stopped. Goal, goal, goal. Do, do, do. Achieve, achieve, achieve.
But in a world where it is “good” to achieve targets, I fear that this achievement itself has become some kind of altar at which people like me pray. But where is the god of purpose for which this altar was erected? Without that, the prayer of achievement loses all sense.
When you get into the process (and life) of setting goals and achieving targets, it is fun. You can put ticks in boxes and say “I succeeded”. If you have an app like “Lift” you can share your goals and your success with other people, who will congratulate you for being like them and achieving what you all set out to do.
But I wonder how many people installed “Lift” and did like I did, just browsing though the habits and goals to choose from and picking things that sounded cool, then setting their goals? Or sat down on New Year’s Eve (or performance-review day) and asked themselves “What goal can I have for next year?” Like an achiever’s buffet-bar. Eat all you can.
In my own case, with the “Lift” app, it would surely have been better to actually have a real goal in mind (or better yet, some sense of purpose) before downloading the app and then use it’s social reinforcement mechanisms to help me get it done. But that’s not what I did. I heard about an app that let’s you share and track goals and thought it would be “good” just because it helps you share and track goals and because that is in itself a “good thing”. I think I am obsessed with (or at the very least, attached to) achieving. And apps that help you achieve are “good”. But what am I actually achieving? What is it all working towards?
And so I write this angry post: Goal-setting and achieving targets is bad. Dangerous. Goal-setting should be a means to a purposeful end, but for workaholic, other-oriented, self-esteem-seeking people like myself, it becomes the end in itself. And it is an end which goes nowhere when you lack any sense of what is “good” or purposeful outside of the goal itself.
As of today, instead of setting goals outside of myself for things to get, be or do I am going rather to focus on looking inside and stripping away everything I don’t want to get, be or do. I have always been told that I should create smart goals that are positive and focus on what I want to achieve. But since I now reject goals and don’t really know what I want to achieve, I will just be negative. I will instead focus on what I don’t want and just see where that takes me. Instead of trying to make a pretty garden with no clear vision of what “pretty” is, I am just going to focus on pulling out the weeds.
Maybe when everything is stripped bare and I’m left with nothing to be, have, do or achieve, I’ll know who I really am, what I really want and what can be done.
I suspect that then I will probably no longer care about goal-setting and achievement.
Just the garden itself.