“You can’t build on broken.” – Angela Blanchard, http://www.Neighborhood-Centers.org

Wise advice from Angela Blanchard, the visionary leader of the team who turned Houston’s AstroDome into a home-away-from-home in one day following Hurricane Katrina to provide much-needed services to the thousands of refugees arriving on buses from New Orleans.

“Imagine losing your home, job, community and almost all your possessions . . . and not knowing what happened to your family members and friends.

One woman told us, ‘No one came, no one came for days. We thought the world had come to an end. We thought something much worse had happened ‘out there.’

We realized asking questions such as, “What happened? What did you lose or leave behind?’ would only drive these individuals deeper into despair.

We decided instead to focus on what they did have instead of what they didn’t; to build on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong by asking, ‘What skills and knowledge do you have? Who might you know in this area?'”

Angela spoke of the across-the-board decency and dignity of these uprooted Louisiana residents.

“When Neighborhood Centers and other philanthropic organizations filled gyms with donated presents to give at a holiday celebration, many only took 1 or 2 gifts. ‘There are a lot of people worse off than us who need them more than we do,’ they said graciously.”

Angela’s “You can’t build on broken” epiphany is universal and enduring.

Next time you’re facing a challenge, remember, “The best way to move things along is to focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong.”

P.S. In terms of POP!, why was Angela’s message so intriguing and “sticky?” Why did people continue to come up to her after her 15 minute presentation to thank her for her stirring insights?

One reason is because her conviction was so convincing. We were swept up in her heartfelt passion and vivid story-telling.

Another reason was she crafted her enduring insight – her eBIFany – into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymed.

Alliteration (words that start with the same sound – such as build-broken) gives our mind a hook on which to hang a memory.

Rhyme (wrong-strong) makes our language lyrical and our ideas instantly eloquent.

If you want people to remember and repeat YOUR insight – so they’re thinking about it, talking about it and acting on it days, weeks, months later – craft it into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymes to give it a long tail of influence.

Doing so will scale its impact – and isn’t that the point of communication?

Want more eBIFanies from BIF-7?

This inspiring conference, hosted by Saul Kaplan, showcases visionaries who saw a problem or opportunity and thought, “Somebody should do something about that.”

Then they thought, “I’m as much a somebody as anybody; I’ll do something about it.”

Their stories of how they figured out what to do when they didn’t know what to do show how we set our SerenDestiny® in motion when we care enough about something to do something about it.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a novel.

He thought about it for a moment and said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night. You can only see to the end of your headlights; but you can make the whole trip that way.”

The innovators featured at BIF-7 weren’t quite clear what their destination was at the outset. They weren’t exactly sure where they were going or how they were going to get there.

They didn’t let that stop them.

Their instinctive desire to solve and serve told them, “Just ‘cause you don’t know isn’t an excuse not to go.” They just started driving.

And because they did, http://www.GlobalGiving.org exists. http://www.BigPictureLearning.org exists. http://www.WillowCreek.com exists. http://www.FutureLogic.com exists. http://www.Climb7.com exists. http://www.HealthLeadsUSA.org exists. http://www.Seriosity.com exists. http://www.Intent.com exists.

You’ll hear more about the above organizations (which represent just a few of the brilliant 30 thought-leaders who spoke at http://www.BIF-7.com ) in upcoming blogs.

Subscribe if you’d like to know how they got out of inertia and uncertainty and drove to the end of their headlights when there was no “there” there.

And, be sure to go to http://www.BusinessInnovationFactory.com to check out their BIF-7 highlight videos and @thebif Twitter feed, to join their community of “transformation artists and audacious change-makers,” and to access their blog, book club and video studio that can help you and your colleagues “unleash and accelerate the transformative power of innovation.”

Advertisements

One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended was BIF-6, held in Providence, RI and hosted by Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory.

was BIF-6, held in Providence, RI and hosted by Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory.

Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory.


Saul and his team collect an eclectic mix of pioneering thought leaders ranging from Tony Hsieh of Zappos to Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company, Jason Fried of Rework and Keith Yamashita, who believes many of us “fritter away our greatness.”

Each presented a TED-like 18 minute presentation introducing their latest invention or insight.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire two days.

There was a recurring, underlying theme to each presentation. These visionaries had either:

A) seen something wrong and thought, “Someone should DO something about this. After being bothered about it for awhile, they finally concluded, “I’m as much a someone as anyone. I’LL do something about this.”

B) witnessed something that wasn’t what it could be. They thought, “It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s got to be a better way. An easier, greener, more satisfying, profitable way. And I’m going to come up with that way.”

I’ll be featuring some of their intriguing stories in upcoming blogs.

For now, I want to share the opening of the individual who did the best job at winning buy-in the first 60 seconds.

Are you wondering, “Was this someone who’s given hundreds of presentations, who’s done lots of media?”

Nope. The person who had us at hello was a surprise.

She walked to the center of the stage, centered herself (literally and figuratively) and stood tall and confident until everyone in the room gave her their undivided attention.

Then, flashing a playful grin, she said, “I know what you’re thinking.”

Long pause.

“What can a 7th grader possibly teach me about innovation?!”

Big smile.

“Well, we 7th graders know a thing or two. Like,” and here she spoofed herself, “how to flip our hair.” At this point, she tossed her long hair over her shoulder.

The crowd laughed, (with her, not at her). Everyone was instantly engaged and impressed with this young woman’s moxie and presence.

“We also know we have the power to make things better if we put our minds to it. For example . . . ” and she was off and running.

12 year old Cassandra Lin had us at hello.

12 year old Cassandra Lin had us at hello.

12 year old Cassandra Lin had us at hello.

The Cliff Notes version of her story is that she and her class discovered the clogged sewer pipes in their city were the verge of causing a disaster because so many restaurants and industrial companies were pouring their F.O.G (Fat, Oil, Grease) down the closest drain.

After doing some resarch, she and her classmates started T.G.I.F – Turn Grease into Fuel – an award-winning recycling effort that generates money for needy families.

You can find out more about her brilliant social entrepreneurialism in the BIF-6 Summit Book and also find out how to register for this year’s BIF-7 summit.
Why did Cassandra have us in the palm of her hand in 60 seconds?

She anticipated what her audience might be thinking – and said it first.

She anticipated these successful executives and entrepreneurs might be a bit skeptical that a 12 year old could have anything valuable to contribute – so she addressed it and neutralized it up front.

She established instant credibility and earned the respect of everyone in the room.

How about you? Are you giving a presentation in the near future? Who are your decision-makers? Will they have their mental arms crossed?

If so, SAY WHAT THEY’RE THINKING.

If you don’t voice what’s on their mind, they won’t be listening. They’ll be resisting everything you say.

For example, if they’re thinking, “I can’t believe you’re asking for money. We don’t have any left in our budget” . . . then guess what your first words better be?

That’s right. “You may be thinking I’m crazy coming in here and asking for money because we don’t have any left in our budget . . . and if I can have your attention for the next three minutes, I can show you where we’re going to find this money and how we’re going to make it back, and more, in the first three months.”

Now you have your audience at hello . . . and now your idea has a chance.