December 12, 2012
or Horseless Carriage
Elissa Sungar and her co-founders have created a site for the parents of
www.ifnotyouwho.org that has the
potential to transform early childhood education. It equips parents with
hundreds of learning activities offered in a unique systematic way to help kids
get ready for kindergarten. Parents are given ideas that correspond to a child’s
developmental stage to promote a child’s social, emotional, language, motor,
math, science and thinking skills.
As Elissa took a deeper dive for me into the research behind these activities
and how it is different from other parent sites, I found myself listening less
and less to the details and instead working harder to see what I could compare
their site to that I already knew. And then, it hit me. This service for parents
is a lot like the online game-changing Khan Academy* for older kids. I then
blurted out, “Oh! You’re a ‘Khan Academy for pre-K parents!’ Elissa paused for a
moment and then said, “Yes. Yes! I guess we are!”
Work with Listener’s Brain
Let me suggest that my processing experience with Elissa is very similar to what
your listeners, prospects, and colleagues go through when you propose any new
idea, solution, or change in direction. As you are pitching and explaining your
heart out, they are looking to put your new information into something old that
they can relate it to from their experience.
That is how we make sense of something new.
We compare it to something that we already know.
For example, when the vehicle that we all know today as the automobile was
invented, it wasn’t originally called that. People would not have known what to
make of an “automobile.” But, knowing what a horse and carriage were, the new
vehicle was easily understood as a “horseless carriage.” Fast forward nearly 100
years. When Apple introduced its iPod, it didn’t sell it as “a portable music
player with huge capacity, long battery life and fast transfer speeds.” It sold
it as “a thousand songs in your pocket,” again, based on something we could all
relate to, and therefore instantly, and easily, understand and get excited
Selling the New? Compare to the Known
Elissa and her co-founders may very well do for the critical pre-kindergarten
years what Salman Khan is doing for elementary and high school students. I
suspect the next time she is asked to explain
www.ifnotyouwho.org, she will
begin with, “Think of us as the ‘Khan Academy for pre-K parents’” and then go
from there with a now much more engaged listener.
In Your World
What are you selling that is new? What metaphors are you using to create
interest, understanding, and excitement for it?
*You have probably read about The Khan Academy, a
not-for-profit site with the goal of changing education for the better by
providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. It began when then
hedge fund manager Salman Khan helped his niece online with a math problem. Soon
after he was helping her friends. That initial family assistance has morphed
into a full time organization with some 3000+ free courses online with Khan as
its CEO. He is revolutionizing the way kids learn all across the country.
As the year winds down, I wish you all a very Happy Holiday season with friends
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.
in the Movies
Lots of reasons to see Steven Spielberg’s fascinating movie,
Lincoln – great acting, dramatic story, wonderful direction. Another is to
notice how often, with other techniques as well, Lincoln used stories,
metaphors, and analogies to make his points and to ultimately persuade the
naysayers in Congress in 1865 to pass the 13th amendment to the Constitution.
See my letter
in The Wall Street Journal
about the power of metaphors to ultimately trump story-telling
because of increasingly shorter and shorter attention spans of listeners.
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