During evolution, our body has adapted to handle a continuous stream of sensory stimuli. The flood of information that everybody talks about seems to increase the amount of external signals. This man-made noise to which we are exposed, visually and auditorily and sometimes even olfactorily, seems to be much louder, more dazzling and stronger than the natural signals of the past. The extent to which today’s flood of data is more significant for us than the reflections of light on the water that showed the fisherman the swarm, or the rustling of the leaves that announced a storm, or the smell that warned one of wild animals, could be discussed. However, it is unlikely that in the short time since modern signals are flooding us, our sensory abilities have changed significantly. Just as the cracking of a branch directed the attention of early humans in the appropriate direction and was decisive for survival, so the news seems to be a signal for some people to pay attention to something. When selling your goods and services, you need the meaningful digestion of your messages by your target group. Customers should be encouraged to ask: What‘s in it for me?
The way in this direction requires all the following steps.
The basic prerequisite for capturing a message is the sensory receipt and the passing on of corresponding stimuli – an image, a sound or noise, a special surface, a smell or a taste. Without the transmission of signals, potential customers have no way of receiving anything at all.
This means that you have to deal with today’s channels. This applies to the Internet, but also to traditional media such as newspapers, radio, television and especially books. Reuse reduces the effort and increases the likelihood of being noticed.
After you send your messages as regularly as possible, it is important to increase the stimulus in such a way that it surpasses the absolute perception threshold and thereby attracts the attention of your target group. A good example of this threshold is a room full of people, whose buzz produces a uniform noise in which nevertheless one’s own name immediately stands out. Only when the messages attract attention, the audience can deal with them.
In the flood of Internet contents, it is not enough to spend a lavish design or a large budget, but you should offer added value, through freemium offers, valuable checklists or multimedia explanations. The difficulty lies in managing the balancing act between novelty and old-fashioned – a new buzzword is not searched for by the users and an established one is lost in the flood of search results. For this reason, it is beneficial to avoid everything that leads to habituation and thus to suppressing your messages. Stand out from the crowd with extraordinary size of your title, use unusual colors and color contrasts (e.g. purple with yellow), irritate with bizarre to senseless slogans (e.g. you pay for nothing!) or surprise outside the expectations of customers (e.g. field advertising besides airports). As a result, you get from enticing contents an organic boost in google results and you will be shared by satisfied users.
The attention is not beneficial, if the viewers cannot link the identified content with their existing mindset. The value of the message is always determined by the recipient, not by the sender. For this reason it is necessary to take care of your target groups in order to get as close as possible to their reality. This starts, for example, with the choice of language – you should certainly not speak to French people in Japanese; additionally, target groups often have a special jargon that you have to meet.
For this reason clarify what you actually want to convey – e.g. what do we offer? Who are our competitors? Which language should we use? Which words are conducive? Which are harmful? The better you anticipate your target group, the more likely your messages will make sense to the audience and they will accept your offers.
Bottom line: Flood of information or not, you will not get around participating in the storm. The possibilities of the Internet have contributed substantially to the fact that everybody provides ever more and more noticeable contents. The efforts are of little benefit, if everyone struggles the same way, as they all improve to the same extent. This makes it all the more important to deal with the steps of perception to deliver the extra that puts you ahead of the pack.
PAM offers a simple sequence that can be used for orientation when conveying messages.
1) In order to be perceived, you must send your messages through one or more sensory channels. 2) The messages should stand out noticeably from the crowd. 3) The audience should be given a chance to connect the content with their mental models. From then on, potential customers can deal with what’s in it for them.
The meditative term of mindfulness emerged in the wake of Work Life Balance. This special form of attention is a good approach for minimizing distress at work. In German the obvious consideration of other people and also of the own mental state are hidden behind this term. Together they comprise the external and internal watchfulness.
Executives are more and more required to show sensitively an interest in the needs and desires of their employees, in order to create a supportive work atmosphere. The mindfulness extends this challenge with the look at yourself. Only if you can lead yourself, you can lead others. The two kinds of watchfulness cover your personal scope for action.
Attention is the conscious observation of the environment. Empathy, sensitivity and sympathy enable executives to better recognize the inner state of each individual employee. The most important tool is the feedback talk. In this conversation the aspects are located in the center that employees care at most – their tasks, successes, difficulties, annoyances, resentments or desires. Paying attention means to concentrate and examine certain areas, as with a telephoto or a microscope. You put yourself actively into the position of the employees and you find solutions for them. Interests of the enterprise or the bosses or other logical perspectives should be left aside. They would disturb the rare opportunity to show an interest in the employee. Cooperation only functions, if all involved people give themselves mutual attention – then solutions can be found that make everybody happy.
Mindfulness is the intentional focus on the here and now without any valuations. The most important tool is meditation. This activity needs no special place, no specific time and no defined posture, in order to observe the own perception or to dig into the conditions of your consciousness. It can take place in the office, in a meeting, during a train trip, in an elevator or however. You observe by asking yourself: How does my breathing feels like? How do I feel? What do I think about? What am I doing? What desire do I have right now? By this contemplation you put yourself into the center of the current happening. You discover yourself, as if you perceive the environment with a wide-angle lens. If other people appear in your thoughts, the core questions should be: What do these people release within me? And why? In these extroverted times you lose too often the look at your inner state. In order to take yourself seriously, it is necessary to take care of your mental states – otherwise nobody else does.
In German mindful is a synonym of attentive. This leads to the fact that these two terms are mixed up. At the same time neither the mental states of the others nor the own ones are considered. The results are unconscious conflicts, if everyone does not feel sufficiently considered.
Bottom line: It requires two forms of watchfulness, in order to avoid apparent and unnecessary conflicts. For this purpose it is helpful to pay attention to your environment and to understand, what worries everybody. At the same time you should do a similar approach for yourself by developing sufficient mindfulness and thus to understand your mental states. The interaction of the external and internal watchfulness opens the path for solutions that satisfy others and yourself.
The pressure on decision makers is increasing. The decisions of the board and the managing directors result more and more frequently in criminal convictions. Compliance and potential breaches of duty threaten executives. As long as things go well and no illegal crimes are existing, there is no danger. However, as soon as success is missing, decision makers should expect that they could be sued by their own company. What are the options, in order to get out of the liability?
There is always a residual risk that no one can escape. At least you can reduce the risk with the following counter measures.
Documented specifications show the effort to enforce proper behavior. This is underlined by continuous emphasis of rules in meetings and events.
The use of subcontractors enables the transfer of the operational responsibility. Thereby you can bypass liability for employees that could result from labor and works agreements. Also the risk of mismanagement is passed in the first place to the subcontractor (e.g. the Doha Express Highway – Bilfinger versus Tubin; the oil platform Deepwater Horizon – BP versus Transocean).
- Outsource critical fields
In the balance you can separate risk-loaded areas from the current business. A good example is the foundation of bad banks, in which banks moved risky, bad papers during the crisis, whereby the risk was passed on to taxpayers. Most current example to creep out of the liability is the attempt to extract risky parts from the actual enterprise EON. By splitting off the dirty technologies coal, atom and gas, with all its risks, EON prepares the way for passing the follow-up costs of the aftercare to the German taxpayers.
- Shift attention
It is smart to divert the attention to another topic in case that one actually has to take care of the problem. The first impulse is surely the nomination of a scapegoat. Distraction provides also complaining about drastic consequences and the need to prevent it. Celebrating results that are already achieved always works in any case.
In the past, it has proven especially effective to sell the critical enterprises (like in the case of Bhopal the sale of Union Carbide to Dow Chemical) or the development of a new strategy that makes the old problems obsolete (as in case of founding a new airline by Lufthansa). A personal strategy could be to change the job.
To admit failure based on leaked out circumstances is always the ideal step for damage control. In any case attempts to hush up something will sooner or later become uncovered and creates the impression of bad conscience. A confession also reduces the height of the punishment for legal misdemeanors.
Insurers already offer liability manager insurances in case of emergency. This D&O*-insurance covers mistakes that are not committed deliberately.
Bottom line: On the one hand new styles of leadership result in a larger participation of the employees during decision making. At the same time the bosses are held personally accountable. Therefore, one has to consider that the decision for taking over a leadership position is not only determined by the desire for m ore money, but also by the willingness and the ability to take risks. With the measures above the liability can be minimized.
*) D&O = Directors and Officers