How Do You Achieve Your Goals ?

June 3, 2016.
How Do You Achieve Your Goals?
Goal-Setting, Motivation & Performance

Although most executives realize the importance of setting goals, many do not realize the degree of importance of individual and team performance — or the importance of HOW you set and manage the goals for the final outcome.

The foundation for what we know today about the connection between goals, motivation and performance was laid by Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham who conducted extensive research over more than two decades, since the late 1960s—and summarized and published the results in their landmark work ‘A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance’ (1990).

This was subsequently followed by a number of other related studies, such as those by Seijits and Latham (2005) and Herzberg (2009).

The key findings by Locke and Latham included:
• Discovered 5 key principles of goal setting
• The more difficult and specific a goal is, the higher the motivation and the harder people tend to work for it
• 90 % of the time, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy ‘do-your-best’ goals
• Goal setting is important for the performance of individuals as well as organizations
Learning goals can lead to better performance than performance-only goals in many situations—for example for skill development, discovering out-of-the-box ideas or action plans to make companies more competitive.

The importance of goal setting for motivation and ultimately, therefore, performance has been confirmed in a number of related studies by Vroom (1994), Bandura (1986), and others.

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Dr. Edwin Locke

The 5 Principles of Goal Setting that emerged from the research by Locke and Latham are:

1. Clarity. Goals must be clear and specific.

2. Challenge. Goals must be challenging—but not too challenging; i.e. they must be realistic and achievable.

3. Commitment. Commit to your goal, for example, by visualizing the benefit of goal achievement—or, in a team, get the team to commit and buy into the goal by involving the team in the goal setting.

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Dr. Gary Latham

4. Feedback. Get feedback on your progress, for motivation and to improve and adjust your efforts if necessary. If you are working on achieving a goal by yourself, you can provide your own feedback by measuring your progress and evaluating your own efforts as you progress.

5. Complexity. Manage the complexity of your goals. Don’t make your task too complex, as it could then become overwhelming. Break large complex goals into sub goals.

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Ten Ways to Improve Your Presentations

May 27, 2016.
Improve Your Presentations.
Study the best TED Speakers!

Garr Reynolds:
10 Ways to Improve Your Presentations –
Why Storytelling Matters

Garr Reynolds, writer, designer and musician—and the author of ‘Presentation Zen’ (2013, 2nd ed.), a best-seller on presentation design and delivery.  He is also a former corporate trainer at Sumitomo Electric and current Director of Design Matters Japan, in Osaka.

In his TEDxKyoto talk featured here, Reynolds provides 10 tips for how you can improve your presentations and highlights why storytelling matters—to bring out your message, make it more memorable and have greater impact.

TEDxKyoto 2014

His book Presentation Zen was first published in 2011, with a new and updated 2nd edition released in 2013.  Although the book covers both presentation design and delivery, it is particularly focused on design—how to best design your presentation slides and visuals for maximum clarity and impact.

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The importance of design to influence and persuade your audience is best summed up by Guy Kawasaki, Co-Founder of and former Chief Evangelist for Apple in his recommendation of ‘Presentation Zen’:

“To change the world, you need to pitch. To pitch, you need to design. To design, you need this book.”

So if you are not familiar with the book already, it’s well worth checking out—and highly recommended to watch Reynolds’ TED talk.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

How to Pitch a Brilliant Idea

May 20, 2016.
How to Pitch a Brilliant Idea 

Ever presented what you thought was a brilliant idea, great business plan or creative concept to new customers, partners, investors —but had your proposal rejected?

Then you may be interested in the insights of a study by Kimberly Elsbach, Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Associate Dean at University of California, Davis, originally published in the Harvard Business Review.

“Coming up with creative ideas is easy; selling them to strangers is hard”, says Elsbach.

She conducted a study of the U.S. film and television industry over 6 years, examining how people with film and movie ideas presented to the media companies and their success rate—and later expanded the study to cover similar situations in other business settings.

One of the overall findings of the study confirmed what has also been revealed by various other research—that HOW you present can be as important, and potentially even more important, as WHAT you present. In fact, how you present and the impression you give can easily overshadow the perceived merits of your idea or proposal.

This is to a large extent due to most people’s tendency to quickly judge and prejudge other people—especially when people meet for the first time. Research by Stanford Professor Ambady, and others, showed that such ‘thin slice judgements’, take place within seconds of meeting or even just upon seeing the other person (refer to the article published on this website on December 4, 2015).

Kimberly Elsbach found that people in her study who successfully pitched their ideas to executive decision makers could be categorized as 3 types of people or ‘person prototypes’—’showrunners’, ‘artists’ and ‘neophytes’ (a person new to a subject or activity). She also found that the idea pitchers tended to be more successful if they managed to involve the person(s) to whom they presented—or at least make them feel they were involved in the development of the idea or proposal.

The concept of ‘person prototypes’ was developed by Stanford psychologists Nancy Kantor and Walter Mischel. Their research demonstrated that when we meet new people we tend to try to categorize them by matching them during the first moments of interaction with other people we know or have met.

The 3 categories that Elsbach identified in her study can be described as follows:

Showrunners tend to display charisma and wit, but also demonstrate enough technical know-how to persuade the decision makers that the idea is feasible and can be executed.

Artists display great passion and enthusiasm about their ideas, but can be shy or even socially awkward. However, they are good at making their audience imagine and ‘see’ the attractions of what they are proposing—supported by their passion, and they are perceived as the most creative of the three types.

Neophytes tend to be or act as if they were inexperienced and naive, and are the opposite of showrunners. Their lack of experience is often perceived as freshness of thought by the decision makers evaluating their ideas—and they present themselves as eager learners, again a perceived positive trait for the decision makers. Many entrepreneurs fall into this category.

Elsbach’s study goes into further details on how the above characteristics affect and can be used to successfully pitch your ideas and proposals—but the bottom line for presenters is that by being aware of people’s instant stereotyping process and which type of presenter you are—and by engaging your audience to ‘collaborate’ on your idea or proposal—you have a much higher chance of being successful.

“By successfully projecting yourself as one of these three creative types and getting the person you present to as a creative collaborator, you can improve your chances of selling an idea”, as Elsbach puts in her report.

Source: Harvard Business Review No.9, 2003.

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Story Behind Death

May 13, 2016.
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Piotr Grzywacz:
Story Behind Death – or
What will your life story be?

Piotr Grzywacz is a Tokyo-based entrepreneur and leadership development expert. CEO & Founder of Pronoia Group. In his past career he was Head of Learning Strategy at Google in Tokyo from 2011-2015, and prior to that was Vice President of Learning & Development at Morgan Stanley Japan for five years.

How often do you use stories in your talks or presentations?—Perhaps not often enough? If you are looking for insights and inspiration on how to use stories—do take a look at this great TED talk.

This is a very powerful and moving TED talk—well worth watching, both for its leadership and life message and its excellent presentation delivery. It is a great example of the power of stories—to engage your audience, illustrate your message and make it highly memorable.

TEDxHong Kong August 2015

Here are some highlights of Grzywacz’s delivery skills as a presenter:

Opening. Note how he opens with an intriguing statement—making us curious about the content of his talk. He immediately moves on to engage his audience, using breathing exercises and then asking them to close their eyes and imagine an unusual situation which I will not reveal here—to avoid spoiling your experience of watching his talk.

Stories. His talk is focused around two captivating stories, with surprising twists—which we discover some way into his presentation—and very well told. They both engage, illustrate his main message and help make the message highly memorable.

Movement & Posture. His straight, balanced posture conveys trust and confidence. And note his use of movement—moving to a different position when he continues to the next story or part of his talk. He avoids making the mistake of purposeless motion commonly made by many presenters—instead turning his head, scanning and making eye contact with the audience across the room.

Voice. For many presenters using your voice in the best and most effective way can be a challenge. If you struggle with this you can learn much by taking note of how Grzywacz very effectively uses the ‘3 Ps of Voice’—Pitch, Pace & Pause.

Gestures. He also makes active but measured use of hand gestures—an important tool when you speak.  As you may remember from a study of TED speakers featured in our November 29, 2015, newsletter, active use of hand gestures is highly important for how your audience perceives your talk or presentation.  The TED speaker study showed a direct correlation between the number of views a TED talk gets and the number of hand gestures.

It is also worth studying how Grzywacz has crafted the structure of his talk—from the opening statement, early audience engagement, story lead-in to his main message—then a surprising turn of events, as he makes call-backs to his two stories which powerfully emphasize his main message.  He briefly returns to his early introduction audience exercises—before ending with a restatement of his main message and call to action.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Five Ways to Listen Better

May 6, 2016.
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Julian Treasure:
5 Ways to Listen Better

Julian Treasure is a frequent TED speaker—and one of the most popular.  His 5 recorded TED talks on sound and communication have attracted around 15 million views.

A sound and communication expert, he is also a successful entrepreneur—having founded and developed one of the UK’s leading magazine publishers, TPD Group, sold in 2003. In addition, he is a life-long musician, author—and Founder and Chairman of The Sound Agency, advising businesses on how to use sound.

Although we usually focus on how to present and speak publicly in the most effective manner—your ability to listen to other people, including your presentation audience, is in fact also highly important for how well you can present, speak and persuade. And that is the main topic of this TED talk by Julian Treasure.

TED 2011  3.8M views on

His book Sound Business is now in its second edition and has also been translated into Japanese (2011). He has been widely featured in world media on topics about sound and communication, including TIME Magazine, The Economist, and The Times, among others—and appeared on radio and TV in the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere.

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Subjects he feels particularly passionate about include how to master powerful speaking, how to improve your conscious listening, and how to design environments for health, productivity and better relationships—topics also covered in his TED talks.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Presentation Openings

April 29, 2016.
Improve Your Presentations.
Study the best TED Speakers!

Presentation Openings
3 Ways to Open with Impact

How do you open your presentations? Like most presenters—i.e. in a very conventional way?  Such as ‘Good morning, I am very pleased to be here today and thank you for attending even though it is raining, etc…..’.

If you do, you are likely to see the audience react accordingly, as this is exactly the kind of opening they are used to hearing from a majority of speakers. They may then have another look at their Facebook page, or check E-mails on their smart phones, or chat softly to their friend seated next to them—basically do anything but pay attention to you.

And remember—you only get one chance to make a good first impression. So don’t miss the opportunity to open with a ‘bang’—something surprising or at least different from most presentation openings.  “Avoid ‘pleasant unpleasantries’ “—as Craig Valentine, the founder of World Class Speaking, puts it.

A powerful opening will catch the attention of your audience and engage them from the very beginning.  You are then off to a good start—and it will be easier to build on this and keep the interest of the audience for the remainder of the presentation.

There are a number of ways to create powerful presentation openings—but 3 effective ways are to open with either (1) a powerful, attention-catching statement; (2) a question; or (3) a story.

Here are some examples of openings, by selected TED speakers, using these three ways.

Opening with a Powerful Statement:

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“Sadly, within the next 18 minutes—while I do my talk—4 Americans who are currently alive, will be dead because of the food they eat.”

Jamie Oliver, TED 2010, from his talk on obesity. Click here to see the full presentation.

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“What you are doing right now, at this very moment—is killing you.”

Nilofer Merchant, TED 2013, referring to the fact that Americans, on average, sit for 9.3 hours per day, and the risks of such a sedentary lifestyle. Click here to see the full presentation.

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“I need to make a confession here, from the outset. A little over 20 years ago I did something that I regret….”

Dan Pink, TED 2009, from his talk on motivation—using intriguing statements, which make us curious and wanting to hear more. Click here to see the full presentation.

Opening with a Question:

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“How do you explain when things don’t go as assumed? How do you explain when others are able to achieve something that seems to defy all the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative? Year after year after year?”

Simon Sinek, TED 2009, opens with three questions. Click here to see the full presentation.

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“Good morning, how are you?— It’s been great, hasn’t it?
I’ve been blown away by the whole thing—in fact, I’m leaving…”

Ken Robinson, TED 2006, who opens with two questions, then a humorous statement. Click here to see the full presentation.

Opening with a Story:

Joi Ito, Head of MIT Media Lab

Joi Ito, Head of MIT Media Lab

“On March 10, 2011, I was in Cambridge at the MIT Media Lab, meeting with faculty, students and staff, and we were trying to figure out whether I should be the next director.

That night, at midnight, a magnitude 9 earthquake hit off of the Pacific coast of Japan. My wife and family were in Japan, and as the news started to come in, I was panicking.”

Joi Ito, Head of MIT Media Labs; TED 2014, opens with a story.  Note how he makes the story more interesting and captivating by setting the scene in some detail—giving date, time, location and who was present. Click here to see the full presentation.

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Innovating to Zero!

April 22, 2016.
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Study the best TED Speakers!

Bill Gates:
Innovating to Zero!

Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, philanthropist, investor and one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, needs no further introduction.

What may be less well known, however, is that he has also given a number of talks as a TED speaker. And although not as famous as a presenter as his late friend and business rival, Steve Jobs—Bill Gates is nevertheless an excellent speaker.

Two good examples of his TED talks are featured here.  Among good speaker features to note are his use of well designed and appropriately used slides, voice dynamics, gestures and posture.

Innovating to Zero!

TED 2010 3.6M views on

In the talk below he also uses a prop as his opening, which is an underutilized presentation tool—but the more effective for that reason.

The Next Outbreak? We’re not Ready.

TED 2015  2M views on

And last, but not least, he exhibits a strong passion for his topics—a key feature of highly engaging presenters. These talks on important and interesting topics are also well worth studying to improve your own presentations.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory

April 15, 2016.
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Study the best TED Speakers!

Daniel Kahneman
The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory:
Why we make “wrong” decisions

Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his pioneering work in behavioural economics—exploring why we make irrational decisions about risk.

Kahneman, Professor Emeritus at Princeton and considered one of the world’s most influential contemporary psychologists, was the first non-economist by profession to win the Nobel Economics Prize.

TED 2010 3.2M views on

In his TED talk Kahneman provides many examples from daily-life to illustrate why most of us, consistently, make decisions and choices which are not rational—in other words, the “wrong” decisions—when analyzed more closely.

The answer to this paradox is partly related to our experiencing selves, i.e. how we actually experience something—and our remembering selves, i.e how we remember what we experienced—which according to Kahneman are two very different entities. And in his talk he reveals which one of the two entities actually determines our decisions.

Kahneman has also written a fascinating and engaging book on how we think and what influences our thinking—Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011).

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Despite being published 5 years ago, the book remains (February 2016) a No.1 Best Seller on Amazon in 3 different categories, and in the Top 100 best-selling books among all Amazon books—strong testimony to its captivating content.

The book draws on decades of research in psychology and which ultimately led to Kahneman’s Nobel Prize. As Kahneman describes in his book, we all have two types of thinking—which he simply calls System 1 and System 2 thinking.

System 1 is fast, intuitive and emotional; which we need to avoid major risks and escape danger.
System 2 is slow, deliberate, and logical; which we need to accomplish more complex tasks and make better decisions.

In theory we should use System 2 most of the time, as it is the most powerful and better thinking tool—unless faced with imminent danger. However, in practice, our thinking patterns are more complex and intertwined—with System 1 thinking often significantly influencing our decision making without us being aware of it.

By learning more about how we think, and the benefits of slow thinking—it is Kahneman’s contention that we can all significantly improve our decision making and therefore ultimately our results and performance.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Making Ideas Happen

April 8, 2016.
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Scott Belsky: Making Ideas Happen

Scott Belsky. Entrepreneur, author, investor. Adobe Vice President of Products and Head of Behance, an online collaboration and showcase platform for creative professionals.  Co-founder and CEO of Behance, established in 2006, until acquired by Adobe in 2012.

Investor in and advisor to Pinterest, Uber, and other companies and author of Making Ideas Happen (2011)

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Why do most ideas never happen?  And how can creative professionals become more productive? These questions are the key focus in this featured TED talk by Scott Belsky—questions he also addressed in his best-selling book Making Ideas Happen.  Apart from the very interesting content and effective delivery of his presentation, it is also an excellent example of well-designed and well-chosen selected slides to illustrate his talk.

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen”—says Belsky, also reciting Thomas Edison’s famous quote—genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration.

TEDxPugetSound 2011

So how can we make more ideas happen? To try to answer this question Belsky examined the processes of famous teams at Disney, Google and other companies—as well as highly creative and productive individuals such as Seth Godin, John Maeda, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), and others—and their methods for overcoming obstacles between vision and reality.

To help creative people execute their ideas and become more productive Belsky co-founded the Behance site in 2006. Since 2012 owned by Adobe, this online platform is now used by millions of people to showcase and discover creative work—and to track and find top talent across creative industries.

In his book Belsky also tries to help answer a question many aspiring entrepreneurs may have: How do you decide which idea is worth committing 5-10 years of your life to build?

If you are creative and have good ideas, but struggle to get them executed, it is well worth investing some time in reading his book and you will also find interesting and useful information on his own Web site:

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

How to Truly Listen

April 1, 2016.
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Evelyn Glennie:
How to Truly Listen

Evelyn Glennie, DBE. World-renowned Grammy-winning percussionist and composer. Despite becoming almost completely deaf at the age of 12, she established herself as one of the world’s top percussionists—a remarkable achievement.

TED2003   3.6M views on

Born in Scotland, Glennie started losing her hearing from age 8—and was profoundly deaf by the time she turned 12. The loss of hearing helped her gain an even deeper understanding of music, and she developed a very keen sense of sound and listening—using all senses of her body, and usually performs barefoot for that reason.

Having performed in more than 40 countries and recorded 28 albums, Glennie has had an extensive solo career—as well as having collaborated with other musicians from classical symphony orchestras to singer-icon Bjork. She is also a composer and has composed music for film and television.

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In the process she has won two Grammy Awards, received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1993 and in 2007 became Dame Commander of the British Empire in recognition of her achievements and contributions to music.

In her unique and engaging TED talk she also demonstrates some of her extraordinary musical talents.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.