Tuesday, September 29, 2009


My friend Tony Messano talks about what he looks for when he hires a photographer in this video clip. Here is his website http://www.tonymessano.com/ad/

The difference between two parties who compromise or collaborate is huge.

Compromising leads to disappointment with all parties. When the parties come together they have a creative idea or solution for a problem. Each party wants their idea out there more than the other one. In this scenario a watered down version of both ideas emerge. In the end no one is satisfied with the solution.

Collaboration isn’t about negotiating solutions. It starts where the parties come together and listening to each other. They are open to new ideas. This is where everyone realizes that alone no one gets their ideas implemented, but by partnering with others they can accomplish their goals.

Rowing is a good illustration on how to collaborate. It is the oldest intercollegiate sport in the United States.

The Harvard-Yale Boat Race or Harvard-Yale Regatta is an annual rowing race between Yale and Harvard universities. It is America's oldest collegiate athletic competition. It takes place each year on Thames River, New London, Connecticut.

In this sport the team must work together. Each person has to stay in sync with his teammates. For me it is the perfect picture of collaboration.

If just one person is out of sync the team suffers.

When a client hires me they expect collaboration and not compromise. Trust is the foundation of this process. You must first trust to your clients, lower your barriers and be exposed.
Listen. Take notes while listening to the client. Note taking prevents you from responding to quickly with your ideas. Active listening means you ask questions to clarify and be sure you have their perspective. You may want to paraphrase their idea and ask if you have it right.

The key is understanding what they want to accomplish. You need to also listen and learn where they have very little room for flexibility. When the client feels like you know what they want and the parameters they are under you have the necessary information to be able to collaborate.

Meeting and exceeding the client’s expectations is easy, if you listen and check with the client to be sure you understand their project.

Many clients will have done an excellent job articulating their project from the very beginning. You still need to explore with them to understand how much flexibility they have. You still need to articulate their project in your own words. Skip this step and you will experience friction with the client.

All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. True friends collaborate rather than compromise.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Ten-Thousand Rule

Malcolm Gladwell tells us The Ten-Thousand Rule is a key component to how successful we are.

In his book Outliers Gladwell points to a 1990s study of violinists done by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson.

Ericsson and his colleagues divided the violinists at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music into three groups: great players,
good players and those unlikely to play professionally and intended to be school teachers. The different groupings of musicians were asked. “How many hours have you practiced since you first started playing?”

Most of the fiddlers began when they were about five. By the age of twenty the great players had put in ten thousand practice hours; the good students about eight thousand and the future music teachers had fiddled around for four thousand hours.

In his book Gladwell relates how the Beatles, Bill Gates, Bill Joy and other extraordinarily successful people have not only put in the ten thousand hours perfecting their craft, but they have done so in a astonishingly short time.

Gladwell makes it clear that there is a threshold one must meet to complete in almost any field. He uses basketball players and IQ scores as examples.

Nearly all basketball players are over six feet tall.
But the taller players are not necessarily the better players. However, to compete it will be difficult if you are not at least six feet tall.

There is a correlation between the six-foot threshold and an IQ of one hundred twenty. A one hundred twenty IQ is about the threshold for graduate school or other advanced learning. Just as being tall doesn’t bring success to basketball players having an IQ of two hundred or higher does not automatically insure success. However, there is a definite cut-off point for success in any business.

This holds true in the field of photography as well. David Lyman, the founder of The Maine Workshop, began each class with a discussion on creativity. Lyman says it is essential to “marry the intellect and the heart with the hands.”

He talks about how important persistence is to success and states that it takes about ten years to refine the craft of photography.

How do you get to be invited to play at Carnegie Hall? — by practice, practice, practice.

Bobby Fisher became a chess grandmaster in less than ten years, but it was close. It took him nine years.

Great artists are indeed talented, but talent can be wasted. The masters of their crafts combined their talent with the thousands of hours of work at the canvas, the instrument, the camera or the free-throw line. The Masters put in the ten thousand hours or more essential to master their chosen playing field.

This is good news for any aspiring professional photographer, rock star or whatever. Want to be one of the greatest in your field? - then put in the time. Ten thousand hours is a lot of time, but over the ten years it takes to perfect a task it breaks-down to fewer than three hours a day even if you’re Bobby Fisher.

Five Characteristic of Success

1. Persistence
It takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours to refine a craft. Woody Allen says just showing up is 90%. The successful show up prepared. Watch out for the Draculas out there. They drain your time and you. Get rid of them.

2. Be Nice

3. Your Resources

Four people you need to get to know.
1. Teacher

2. Coach

3. Facilitators

4. Mentors

4. Be Skilled in Your Craft

5. Talent — Aptitude for the Profession

Earl Nightingale says that we can become an expert in our field in as little as five years. Malcolm Gladwell tells us the Great Players put in ten years. The trip of ten thousand hours can begin now.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Don’t just talk to your audience—Engage them

I’m sure you are familiar with the concept of the “elevator speech.” The idea is that — if you are asked what you do for a living or what your company does — you should be able to give a complete, compelling answer in the time it takes to ride an elevator to your destination.

But what about when you have the opportunity to speak to a group for more than the length of an elevator ride — say, 30 minutes or an hour? Does that mean you can just relax and let yourself ramble?

Quite the contrary.

Don’t Talk — Teach
You should still be able to boil down your presentation in a simple statement; you should have an elevator speech that explains what you’re going to teach your audience and why it’s worth listening to. And then you must move beyond simply talking if you want to continue to engage your audience.

For example, if I were speaking to photographers about social networking, I would start with a simple premise — that the key to successful social networking is to listen. I would then organize my talk around the different ways to listen, would provide
demonstrations to help make my points, and would engage the audience in discussion.

Why would I take this approach, rather than simply lecturing the audience?

Take a look at the illustration above from the National Training Lab in Bethel, Maine. It shows how information taught through different methods is retained by students or other audiences.

As you can see, just talking to an audience doesn’t do much to educate them. Even if the audience member takes notes during a lecture or presentation and reads them back later, he or she still only retains 10 percent of what was taught. If you demonstrate what you’re talking about and then engage your audience in discussion, however, retention jumps to 50 percent.

When your audience has an opportunity to “practice by doing” — e.g., homework — retention increases to 75 percent. And since “teaching others” is the most effective learning method, you can see why educators like to put students in small groups and ask them to present a project to the class.

It’s also why teaching photography (or anything else) is a great way to learn a subject you know even better.

Simple or Complex?

Another factor to consider when you are teaching — particularly if it’s in a classroom, over a period of time — is how simple or complex your material is. We all understand how easy it is to walk on a flat surface, but to climb a mountain takes more work.

Good teachers understand that there are stages of learning. Here are the six basic stages, listed from the most rudimentary to the highest levels of comprehension:

1. Knowledge (memorizing, recalling)
2. Comprehension (expressing ideas in new forms)
3. Application (transfer of learning to a new situation)
4. Analysis (breaking a communication down into its parts)
5. Synthesis (creating something new by putting parts together)
6. Evaluation (judging value based on standards)

When you think about these stages of learning, it’s easy to see why you might have struggled with some of your teachers growing up, as I did. Too many teachers are stuck at stage 1 or 2 in their teaching methods, but expect you to somehow get to stage 5 or 6 when it’s exam time.

Engage, Engage, Engage
Whether you are making a 30-minute presentation to colleagues in your profession, or teaching a semester-long course to college students, success begins and ends with your ability to engage your audience.

One of my favorite examples of effective teaching is from “The Sound of Music.” In the movie, Maria tells the children, “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.” Then she finds creative ways to engage them in the joy of music, again and again.

So don’t teach by talking. Teach by engaging.