A recent study by Stanford Business School reveals that human nature prefers future potential to past accomplishments. In a series of experiments, researchers looked at the evaluation of job candidates and noticed that the applicants who scored well on a test of leadership potential despite not having relevant experience were more likely to get offered a position than those with two years of relevant experience and a high leadership potential score.
The study also found that people prefer the artwork of artists who are likely to win awards over the ones who already have won. They even found that we tend to flock to restaurants run by chefs who might become “it” rather than patronize those who have already established themselves.
I first read about the study in Fortune , and this little insight into our culture irritated me because I am a self-proclaimed ducks in a row kind of gal. I believe women’s potential rests in no small part due to their ninja like abilities to dot “i”s, cross “t”s, and check off an achievement list. If any of you pushed Thin Mints door-to-door like I did for two years, you know the motto “Always be prepared.” Isn’t highly relevant experience the best way to be prepared? What gives?
Assuming the data was statistically representative (I was really curious what would have happened if they ran these same experiments with women decision makers alone), there’s good stuff to learn from it. It’s important to note that no one in the study entertained hiring a person with great potential, but a lousy history. You had to leave a positive impression to get considered. The results suggested that the mystique of what “could be” acts like catnip in our brains. Wanting to understand an enigma and connect with something promising makes us concentrate longer, whereas a solid track record is like knowing a book’s ending. The quality storyline is still there, but the chance for awe diminishes.
Why is this important for women who are considering a run at their own business? Because I think there are many instances when women use their resumes to reassure rather than shine. You’re not crazy for picking me! See? Other people have picked me! That money I’m asking for won’t go to waste because if you look closely at line 6, this person with the really impressive title gave me money too! I sometimes think that if it were professionally acceptable, some of us might be tempted to offer a warrantee with our CVs.
When I imagine the study’s participants sitting down for the interviews with perspective candidates, I can envision a crucial difference between the people with, and the people without the track records. Consider for a moment what you would do if you walked into a room knowing you could only talk about your potential because your experience didn’t exist. You would have to start telling a story about the relationship you and your perspective colleagues could have together. The narrative becomes about what you will build together, how you will help each other, what each of you will miss out on if this great collaboration doesn’t happen. That’s a story that includes the person across the desk. Your past achievements don’t include them. Maybe we dismiss the artist with the awards and the Top Chef because we can’t help them succeed. They already did it without us. Give us the aspiring go-getter, and we want to back the rising stock and get in on the ground floor.
I don’t think the idea is to deny your past successes or forget your mentors. I think this is about emphasis. You wouldn’t go on a first date and start rattling off the names, achievements and tenure of all your previous relationships. Will they come up if the relationship progresses? Of course! Just maybe, not all at once and definitely not over your first salad together.
A business relationship is not that different from any other committed relationship, and before it can go anywhere, there’s a need to concentrate on the mutual attraction. Maybe when we lean on our resumes we don’t reassure our colleagues that we believe in the match. It might actually suggest that we need outside references to find our confidence. Show your collaborators that you are comfortable in the present moment without a posse of achievements, and your audience might settle in and get comfortable. Especially as an entrepreneur, you want to entice. After all, if you could fall in love with your vision, why shouldn’t everyone else?
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What drives your brand?
The brand-driver for 500 Clown theater company is “Life is worth the risk.” It’s a belief system, a call to action, and invitation. It’s global. I t’s also an organizing concept and a criterion for making strategic and artistic decisions. Simply ask: “Are we taking a risk by doing this?” If the answer is no, don’t do it. Everyone leads and everyone grows.
A brand driver is not a tag line. Your driver is both focused and grand in scope. It lays out a clearly defined path with no end in sight. Stakeholders can take this and run with it. It provides clear parameters while allowing future growth and evolution of the brand.
Examples of brand-drivers:
Federal Express (FedEx) dominated the package shipping market with the following: “Federal Express: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” The deployment of this driver or Unique Selling Position allowed Federal Express to emerge as the dominant leader in the industry, taking market share rapidly, and also increasing its sales and profits .
Your people know how to get focused while the competition scrambles.
President John Kennedy’s “Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs,” on May 25, 1961 before a joint session. In this speech, JFK stated that the United States should set as a goal the “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” by the end of the decade.” Not because that and other things were easy, but because they were hard. And that was the way to measure your worth.
The idea took on a life of its own even after Kennedy was assassinated.
The Lesson: You want true power? Aim high and leave no wiggle room.
April 24, 2013
Be Like Water. Solve problems like water does.
Water, when faced with an obstacle, changes direction. When faced with circumstances beyond its control — like heat or cold — water changes form, to steam or ice. Water yields to the problem. Water is both yielding and unstoppable.
Water is life. Life is unfair and unpredictable. Water is always changing itself or what it encounters. Water has the power to change the shape of the Earth. It can be a destructive force or a gentle healer. Water is a source of energy and a mode of transportation. Water can be inspirational, mathematical, physical, mysterious, multi-dimensional, and metaphorical.
A be like water frame will give your organization a new thought process and a behavioral model. When plans go wrong, people will change and adapt…like water. Their basic elements (characteristics and talents) will remain the same. It is their form and direction that will change. Your staff will learn to create and communicate solutions through a water filter because whatever outlook and methodology they have used in the past does not work today. If it did, they would not have to sit through motivational speeches and attend mandatory team building exercises every year.
How does an organization or leader behave like water?
1) Discover your basic “elements.” Where people are concerned, basic elements are themes, a nucleus of capabilities, talents, experiences, characteristics, and how they work together. Here lie the real dynamics of power.
2) Explain your purpose. The purpose of water is to return to the ocean. As liquid it bends and carves its way through the landscape, becoming vapor or solid depending on circumstance. Without a purpose, you will not have a criterion for making the difficult decision of how to adapt (bend or carve). Making decisions aligned with your purpose teaches you creativity (changing form).
3) Practice the art of re-framing . Keep the facts of the matter (water is always H2O) and change the context or the meaning attributed to the situation and therefore its consequences.
Successful companies today do not sell products and services so much as they sell values and their worldview. Dealing with obstacles is how businessmen and women express themselves…to yield, adapt or change direction, and move unstoppably forward. Solve problems like water does.
Be Like Water.
April 11, 2013
University of Maryland, School of Social Work
Dick Cook, Executive Director
Clarify and energize the Social Work Community Outreach Service (SWCOS) brand and elevate their story. Create a brand platform that helps SWCOS staff, faculty, students and alumni create a concise, compelling, consistent and replicable story. This story will drive SWCOS’ 20 th Anniversary and help staff to recruit a greater number of students, faculty and boards members to the cause.
Conduct stake holder interviews and focus groups to uncover the state of the story. Facilitate workshops with principals to shape findings into a compelling narrative. Create a brand platform that SWCOS staff, faculty and board can use to stay on message and drive that message to the frontline intact and with impact.
A brand platform that helps to convert the elevated SWCOS story into executable marketing communications and student recruitment campaigns across a variety of integrated media
Dick Cook, Executive Director:
“At one of my Community Advisory Board Meetings, a board member said “I love what you do. But the way you communicate it beyond those you work with is really awful! I am going to link you with someone who will help you tell your story.”
SWCOS is celebrating its 20 th Anniversary this academic year. One of our activities is a continuing professional education series titled UNLEASHING POWER, right out of Peter’s Branding experience. We ran a session in August titled Unleashing the Power of Community-University Partnerships that drew 150 participants. September’s session on the Nature of Power topped its room capacity of 45 and had to be repeated with the same result in February.
Our materials are now focusing on our new brand. We no longer describe our students and alums as “social work students engaging in community practice.” Our new description of them is “Civic Warriors.” And the new language continues to gain traction.
THANKS Peter. The results are AWESOME!”
April 8, 2013
I am the only brand strategist in the Mid Atlantic who writes and directs plays. I’ve cracked the code on how to connect with audiences…your customers. I’ll show you how it works. I’ll help you to make your story resonate and keep it authentic in order to attract like-minded people to its clear and compelling message.
What we do in theater, Hollywood, or Madison Avenue is tap into universal truths that remind us of our humanity. I’m selling mythology, the most powerful form of storytelling. It’s been around since the dawn of human kind. Legendary brands use story to dictate the approach, design, themes, signifiers and metaphors used to connect with audiences. Story provides the context that simplifies creative and strategic decision making. Story is the engine that drives all benefits.
What I offer isn’t a proprietary process that only the partners of an agency and their layers of account management can execute. It lives inside our collective unconscious. It’s powerful and yours for the asking. In a noisy and crowded marketplace that’s a significant advantage.
Harnessing the power of story can be the thing that tips sales in your favor.
April 3, 2013
Welcome to my new website. Thanks to Justin Allen of What Works Studios for getting me started. Jessica Keyes of Prairie Sky Designs for making it happen. And to Bobby Kintz of Second Glance Photography for the great photographs.
I love what I do…help visionary leaders make the difference they were put on earth to do. Like Jesus Christ, JFK, MLK, Steve Jobs and many others have demonstrated, it starts with a compelling story.
Peter Davis Branding is a grass-roots, organic, and uniquely creative approach to helping leaders understand what branding is, what it can do for them, and how to make their brand perform across a variety of media. The process is equally effective in both the profit-making and non-profit world and is designed to find the one thing you do better than anyone else. All branding, communications, and sales strategies spring from this bold idea.
Each client is different, so my approach is fluid and customized. My experience as a playwright and theater director helped me crack the code on how to move customers and audiences down deep where they make critical decisions…emotionally.
Sometimes finding that one thing you own outright is like mining for ore. You sift and take away everything that isn’t it. Sometimes it is like weaving themes and elements together that make a rich tapestry. Sometimes it requires literary investigation to discover what universal themes, archetypes and mythology we can tap into to stir the imaginations of your customers and audiences. Usually it’s a mix. The process is engaging, fun, and invites buy-in from stakeholders from the beginning.
For newer companies the process is more like farming, in that you claim fertile ground, sow seeds, cultivate, and then reap what you sow.
By the time you’ve come to the end, you’ve soul-searched, claimed higher ground, declared your purpose, ignited passion for your cause, and unleashed the power of awareness and intention. The results include clarity and message consistency. There is alignment between your story and your business strategy. When that happens, opportunity knows where to knock.
In addition to writing, directing and producing plays, creating and conducting custom workshops, and leading branding engagements, I will make time to hear your story. Reach out. If there’s a good fit, we’ll go on an adventure together to find your ground truth and return with your epic story.