Fun Archives

Michael Phelps Interview

Michael Phelps Interview

These August evenings, the 8th through the 24th, my family turns our television to a fierce competition. Not only among nations, but among stations as well.

My wife, Lisa, is an avid Olympic fan. She wants the maximum amount of action for her viewing time.  In our market, the Olympics are carried by three stations–King 5, the local NBC affiliate; the USA network; and CBC, our Canadian channel. Lisa will spend the evening with one hand on the remote switching between stations whenever she thinks the coverage wanes on the channel she’s watching.

Airtime in primetime hours on NBC during the Olympics is worth (according to MediaDailyNews) $750,000 a minute–yes, a minute. Not the $1.7m a minute the SuperBowl commands, but still a big pile of coin.

That’s why NBC put together a team of knowledgeable, experienced, charismatic correspondents to explain, comment on, and add color to the 2008 Olympics–to make Lisa tune our set to our local NBC affiliate and keep it there throughout the 17 nights of competition and especially the commercials that fill out this summer’s Olympic telecast and generate the revenue for NBC.

And Monday night, they dropped the ball.

It was one of the clearest examples I’ve seen of not understanding how emotions work and not being able to take advantage of that knowledge to create connection and communications.

There was Michael Phelps having just won his firt gold medal in swimming. Andrea Kremer intercepted him as he came out of the pool area. He was nearly shivering, his voice just a little shaky. We all, especially my wife Lisa, wanted to know what it was like to start his hunt for a record 8 gold medals in a single Olympics.

“What are the emotions running through your mind?” Andrea asked. “Happy and excitement,” Michael replied.

You won’t a picture from the interview or quotes posted on the internet. It fell flat–didn’t deliver. It may be a small thing. Michael has been interviewed lots of times during these Olympics, a press conference virtually every day in addition to the comments he’s had for color reporters following events.

But that interview didn’t hold my family over to the next commercial break. And if other rabid fans reacted like my wife did, lots of people switched away. And that means loss of revenue for NBC and future networks who carry the Olympics. And not a trivial loss.

There are questions you could ask that would predictably draw a more engaging response. Asking how he’s reacting, for example, will generally get you more. “Wow, Michael, there’s number one, what’s your reaction to your first big win?” People like to talk about their reactions and the question isn’t as narrow as emotions. They’ll tell you about their physical reaction, their emotional reactions, and their thoughts. And you’ll get a sense from their answer of which of these they’re attending to most.

Another way to encourage people to reveal themselves is to note the reactions you can see and ask what’s behind it. “Michael, I notice your voice is a little shaky, your eyes are watering up a bit. Where’s that coming from?”

Not every discussion merits a word-by-word examination. Else, we’d never be able to walk through a social event at ease. Some discussions do, though. When your boss says, “you know, I picked you myself and I have to say I’m really disappointed.” When your patient says, “I’m gonna sue you and this hospital.” When you have a one-on-one interview with the greatest athlete in Olympic history and your time is worth $750,000 a minute.

Tim’s Takeaway:

Especially if you work in an area where the stakes are high, it’s worth your time to craft communications that serve your needs. Communications is a skill like any other. There are frameworks for communicating that can reliably produce the kind of outcomes you want.

As much as the Chinese hope to win many medals in these Olympics, they also hope to use the

Olympics as a kind of coming out event, to let the world know that they are back. And the opening ceremonies were an auspicious start–a tutorial in nonverbal communications.

You likely saw the opening ceremonies. And I won’t add to the commentaris which are readily available on the internet. Our particular interest is communications, so we’ll focus on the messages that China was able to send subtextually through their staging of the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium

Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium

1. While the US and Europe may be in a recession, we have the wherewithal and will to construct a magnificent Olympic Village including a stadium outfitted especially for one night’s celebration.

2. We also have the resources to invest as much in one four-hour production as American spends on a big budget summer blockbuster.

3. We are many.  China is large enough to field a production with

2008 Chinese Drummers

2008 Chinese Drummers

15,000 performers including, expert drummers, Tai Chi performers, lighted dancers, and artists of many stripes.

4. Don’t think we are backward. We have remarkable expertise to bring to bear, even in technology. China showcased the largest LCD screen ever displayted.

Chinese Print Block Artists

Chinese Print Block Artists

5. We can be remarkably disciplined when we want to be. The Chinese memorialized their historic rise as well as their development of technologies such as paper and print block.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the swift and intricate choreography of the blocks–now a set a waves, now drops in a pond, now a chinese character, now the great wall–was in fact, not the work of a computer but a highly trained troupe of human performers.

Tim’s Takeaway:

There’s a saying in screenwriting–show, don’t tell.  In other words, don’t tell me your protagonist is compassionate; show me your protagonist passing up a raise to help a co-worker. Whatever message you’re trying to send in a screenplay comes across much more powerfully in action than in words. The Olympic opening ceremonies were a terrific example of that maxim at work, the messages that China was sending to the world came across much more powerfully enacted than they would have in any written statement or flowery speech. 


Johnny Bunko – the shape of books to come?

I spent the evening with Dan Pink, author of best-sellers Free Agent NBunkoation and A Whole New Mind , an overflowing pseudo-boardroom of other curious readers, and free rounds of microbrew. Dan was in town to promote his new book–Johhny Bunko, the last career guide you’ll ever need. The discussion brought up a number of interesting questions to grapple with, not the least interesting of which was this: does Johnny Bunko give us the face and format of books to come?

You’ll notice from the reprint at the right important differences between Bunko and your standard career book. First, the text doesn’t respect margins. Second, the book doesn’t privilege text in the way most how-to’s do. Third, the book is fundamentally narrative, not didactic. In short, it’s a comic book. Or more correctly, it’s an Americanized version of Manga-a graphic format common in Japan and enjoying growing popularity in the US-which makes it sort of a literary california roll (to steal Dan’s metaphor).

But should you take Bunko’s format seriously, or is it just Pink’s attempt to attract attention for an otherwise deadly dry topic? The surprising answer is that there are a number of practically, and conceptually compelling reasons to believe this is more than fad or a promotional angle.

For example:

1. The internet has arguably obviated the need to put current information on many topics like careers into book form. A click of the mouse will take you to thousands of pages of career advice that’s both free and more current than any book could be. Hence, books are freed to focus on evergreen ideas like fundamental principals.

2. Some will say that the narrative format helps make these principals more memorable.

3. The manga format is popular and ubiquitous in Japan, capable of supporting content in a variety of genre. Dan passed around books formatted in manga with a variety of content including entertainment (comic books), social and political tracts (the dangers of nationalism), and how-to’s (time management tips). In fact, he says, walk into any bookstore in Japan and you’ll find an entire floor devoted to manga.

4. Some say manga is becoming more popular here in the US. That’s not entirely clear. According to ThePublishingTrendsBlog, a big dispute about the future of manga was sparked at last year’s Conference on Anime and Manga with pundits taking different sides depending on whether they put more stake in shelf space at bookstores, titles published, and on such things as paper vs. electronic format.

I can tell you this, there were three representatives there from a Snowhomish Washington workforce education group that were rabid about working Johnny Bunko into their material for high school and college kids. They cited high school drop out rates in the 50-60% range and saw Bunko as the right message in the right media. In fact, they’d already distributed 250 copies of the book to area job counselors.

Tim’s Takeaway:

We always want the media to represent the best way to get the message into the hands and minds or our audience. For some types of messages and audiences, the narrative-centric, visually-oriented manga style may be the best match of format and content. It’s worth looking into.

Instant Messaging Reduces Interruptions at Work

Source: The Ohio State UniversitySource: Forward EscapeHere’s a bit of something unexpected. We’ve all heard the talk lately about productivity lost to the many distractions at the office.  A study at the British Institute of Psychiatry, for example, discovered that excessive use of technology reduced workers’ intelligence and that those distracted by incoming e-mail and phone calls saw a ten-point fall in their IQ, over twice the impact of smoking or marijuana use. You’d expect Instant messaging to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It turns out, according to a new study from the Ohio State University (happens to be my alma mater), IMing actually reduces workplace interruptions.

How’s that? By combining the best of phone calls and email, instead of the worst.

Workers get the immediacy of the telephone with the incentives for brevity that come from having to type out their comments. The result is that using instant messaging leads to more conversations that are briefer.

Tim’s Takeaway:

Go Buckeyes!