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In this second live Catalyst event, Paul and Rich discuss how to pitch your project to all types of stakeholders — and get buy-in. They also delve into the tools and methods you can use to gain consensus in the room and talk about the persuasive power of good design.

Transcript

Rich Ziade You said absolutely enormous. I didn’t know what—I thought my head was too big in the camera, I didn’t know where you were going with it.

Paul Ford No, no, I like your head. [music ramps up, plays alone for 15 seconds, fades out]

RZ You are joining Postlight Podcast Catalyst. This is very confusing. I don’t know.

PF Woo! Here we go. 

RZ We have a podcast, which we’ll talk about in a second. Catalyst is a whitepaper that we put out. But it’s also a podcast series that we’ve been—this is the second in that series. So we’re glad you’re here. My name is Rich Ziade. I am one of the co founders and President of Postlight. 

PF I’m Paul Ford. I’m the other co founder and CEO. And you know, we’re talking real high level today. Good fun images, relax, eat your lunch, we’re gonna have a nice time. 

RZ Kick back. 

PF Yeah, there’s a q&a at the end, very little audience participation, just, we’re just gonna have a nice hour together talking about transformational organizational change. [Rich laughs]

RZ Relaxing hour with us. We’re recording this, it’ll end up on YouTube. Part one is also available on YouTube. As we go, if you’ve got questions, type them into the Zoom chat window. And we’ll we’ll look them up at the end of the presentation. We are Postlight, a New York City based digital product studio based in New York, but we got people all around the country. And in a nice team in Lebanon as well. Shout out to Lebanon. We do all kinds of work for all kinds of companies.

PF Look at those logos. So we started as a real technology first firm, and design and product management and we build your thing. And as we’ve been growing over the years, we’re finding that more and more of the work we do for you know, places with logos, much like these or exactly like these, is around managing the change that comes from shipping software. Oh, and recently, we put out a whitepaper, which usually if you’ve ever looked at a corporate or consulting firm whitepaper before, you’ve probably been really disappointed. This one’s fun, lively, we’re talking about it right now. It’s extremely visual. Go download it, take a look at it. And this is an honest request. Let us know what you think. Let us know what your experiences have been. I’ve gotten great emails about this. And they are going to be very helpful in revising version two. 

RZ Yeah. So this is the second in a four part series, the Catalyst paper is actually broken out into four sections: define, discuss, develop and deliver. In the first of the series, we talked about defining your mission and crafting your mission. And we use this metaphor of the North Star and being very explicit, very brief, almost like a tagline for what you’re looking to achieve. And using that to guide you and inform others about your mission and where you’re going. Today, we’re going to talk about getting buy-in getting others to reach consensus and get behind what you’re trying to do. So you’ve got definition, and today we’re going to talk about discussing.

PF It’s worth noting you were talking about everything, but the technology, this is the stuff you need to do to get people to listen to you when you talk about the tech and the platform you’re building. 

RZ That’s right. It’s about people. So before we move on, we got a big big announcement. 

PF Oof. This is a big one. This is—wait till people see the production values or what’s about to happen. 

RZ I mean, we have been secretly working with Zoom, Paul.

PF Crazy to announce this in the middle of this live webinar, but this is this is what we’re about. What did we do for them? 

RZ Well, we’ve been working in stealth mode, which means we didn’t use computers, we just use paper and pen and come up with a new product in partnership with Zoom. 

PF Oh, what’s it called?

RZ It’s called Got-A-Sec.

PF Oh, wow. 

RZ The logo is still a work in progress.

PF What a brand.

RZ But Paul, it’s a game changer. It’s gonna—

PF Just looks like a boring Google spreadsheet. I’m just desperately trying to get my work done. What does this do for me? 

RZ Well, you know, one of the things we’ve lost by being in these meetings is we’ve kind of relegated all these people we communicate with into a meeting and they have to sit on top of each other in these boxes that get stacked. It’s ridiculous. Let’s break out of that paradigm. So now with Got-A-Sec, any box in Zoom can just show up on your desktop unannounced—

PF While I’m in the middle of anything, while I’m just working getting my work done. 

RZ You got to say, we used to do this all the time. 

PF I miss the office. We got to get back in the office just so we can do this, just so we can get behind people while they’re—people don’t feel your breath enough in this new environment. 

RZ People are missing that. I think people are missing you walking up behind them.

PF “Just a minute, got a sec, got a moment? Yeah, come in, it won’t take long.” And there goes the rest of your career. That’s how that works. 

RZ Yeah, we’re talking about meetings here, aren’t we Paul? We’re gonna get into meetings for a second here. 

PF That’s not a real product. I don’t know if that was obvious from the work we just did. Oh my god. There’s so many kinds of meetings. Richard, there’s so many. It’s almost like ice cream flavors.

RZ So I was, this was a low point in the pandemic and it was, I think it was like 2 in the morning. And I got on Amazon I said, I need a crate of Ritz crackers, maybe part cheese. Part peanut butter.

PF You need both, right?

RZ You need both. And Amazon knows man, they’d had a feeling, I think when you when you go on Amazon at 2am, and it picks up that your fingers are a little sweaty and it’s an anxious time. 

PF You ever think that one of the reasons that Amazon is you know, it has a reputation as a very big kind of predatory company. And maybe that’s because it’s learned so much about human behavior that it’s just disgusted. [Rich laughs]

RZ It’s just done with us.

PF It’s just done, it’s like ‘here, have your peanut butter packs, you monster’.

RZ Exactly. 

PF So I, you know, I logged one into the shopping cart. And then it’s it said, ‘wait a minute, hold on a second, Rich, you have to go through this every time. I can send you a box of these every month!’

RZ You can have a whole closet filled with these in about 11 months. That’s what you’re gonna have. [Rich laughs]

PF I have like something like 300 razor blades sitting upstairs. 

RZ Did you subscribe to razor blades?

PF I subscribed to razors, yeah.

RZ I was gonna subscribe to toothpaste. So what we’re talking about here is the recurring meeting, it sits there. It’s almost glued to your calendar. It’s like that sticker that you got to get it off without ruining the thing, but you can’t get it off. And the recurring meeting is funny in that in the beginning, it just feels spot on. And eventually you’re wondering why you have it sometimes and you wish you could skip this week. But there’s a power dynamic there. So recurring meeting is a type of meeting, right? 

PF True boss power move, I’ve seen this, you stand up in front of the whole company to say all recurring meetings are canceled, start over. That’s enough. 

RZ Aggressive, but you know what, that’s not the worst idea, if they need to come back on, they’ll come back. It’s a cleansing of sorts.

PF Another kind of meeting is corporate therapy. First of all, has anyone ever been able to dip a lady finger into the coffee without it just exploding?

RZ You’re not supposed to do that. I don’t think you’re supposed to.

PF You’re not supposed to dip? You just nibble and then sip. I’ve been doing this—

RZ It’s too spongy.

PF This is like one of many problems that I have apparently. This is the one-on-one, right. So the other one, we’re going to get a room and talk, we’re going to do it over and over whether we have something to talk about or not. This is the one that starts—one-on-ones are really interesting, because you’re looking at each other in the eyes. And you’re saying, usually it starts with like, okay, let’s talk about the work. And then it branches out and you talk about other things. And you talk about the organization and you complain, they’re human, they’re just very, very human, they’re less formal, and they become more about the kind of larger context of your job. So that’s, that’s the corporate therapy. 

RZ Yep. And then you’ve got obviously, the status update and the status update usually it’s, you’re telling someone else, oftentimes, it’s a manager or an executive how things are going. This is, you know, the dashboards, the dashboard world and the industry is massive, right? And hopefully, your graphs are going upward, and your costs are going downward. And things are going well. I mean, it’s it’s about the status update. 

PF I love this meeting, because I both received it and given it and it’s always like, how come it went up instead of down or vice versa? Like that’s the entire meeting every time. 

RZ Of course, the stand up meeting is, I think, more ritual to me than meeting. It’s sort of a way of kind of checking in on accountability. I feel like, you know, I tend to push back on process. I don’t like too much of it. And so—

PF No, you don’t like to see people stand in a circle like a coven and confess that they haven’t done things, that doesn’t appeal to you.

RZ I don’t think it appeals to anyone. And then there’s the demo. The demo is a stressful meeting, right? It’s months down the road. You’ve been pulled up for a long time with design and development, and you’re finally showing the thing. And things go wrong. There’s the classic demo gone wrong situation. But also it’s this very vulnerable moment, right? Because you’ve got people who have not put the sweat you’ve put in second guessing and asking why you didn’t do this. Meanwhile, that was a decision that was made three months ago. And it was a big one. But it’s a type of meeting. Now, we’re really happy that everyone has joined us today. Typically, if this was a real live event, you’d probably leave with some great swag, like you’d probably get either post like branded cookies or and we’ve done we’ve done stickers, we did a board game, which was fancy.

PF We’ll do a noodle shield in the future. When we’re all back, maybe August, September, we can do a socially distances event and everyone can wear a noodle shield.

RZ Yeah, I think they can—is that a real thing? I can’t tell.

PF Of course it’s a real thing. What are you talking about? You put that in there without knowing there’s a whole noodle shield culture.

RZ Right. So because we can’t give you anything, we want to give you two bonus tips. We’re going to pause the presentation for a second and talk about two key tips that you can take to all your meetings. The first tip, don’t make people attend if they don’t have to. 

PF But you know what I love about these, this and the second one, I want to warn everybody, they’re completely basic and you’re going to be like, don’t make people—okay, yeah, but everybody makes people attend, everybody, because out of guilt. It’s out of like, ooh—

RZ Will they be upset if I don’t invite them, right? That’s right. Here’s where the real confusion is. I think if you’re not invited to some meeting, don’t be insulted, be flattered. They valued your time.

PF I have sent people email saying, “I’m not inviting you to this meeting, because I don’t think you need to be there. Because I admire respect and love you.” You know, if you they actually get that message—I might leave out love, depends on what—

RZ You’ve never sent me that email.

PF No, I’ve invited you to just about every meeting. I don’t know what says about our relationship.

RZ Another tip. This one’s a little more subtle, Paul. Never end a meeting without a clear, tangible next step. You know, the warning sign, when the last thing said in the meeting are, “I’m really glad we had this conversation. I’m so glad we connected.” And there’s nothing.

PF Do a running tally of your weekly meetings and see which ones have clear, tangible next steps. I bet most people are about 20% max. I think that’s probably—

RZ About 80% of them are like, “Well, good conversation!”

PF Now back to the webinar. Everybody thinks we say the word seriously, someone yelled at me earlier, I forget who it was, that I shouldn’t say webinar. What choice do we have in today’s mixed up mad cat?

RZ We don’t have a choice. So we’re gonna focus, Paul, on the mother of all meetings. 

PF So we talked about the nice taxonomy of meetings that you have throughout your week. But there’s a special one, the pitch, right? People have those, they don’t think about the pitch as much as they should. Sales does, but other groups really should. 

RZ And what is the pitch? And sometimes you don’t know you’re pitching when you pitch. It’s this dynamic, where you and some colleagues are trying to get other people in the room to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. You’re trying to get them from point A to point B. And it’s a very distinct dynamic, because all of a sudden, everyone leans back and goes into sort of a convince me mode, you sort of lean forward and say, “I’m gonna win you over” right? And you’re trying to get them to do something. It’s not that they don’t want to do it, they’re not avoiding it. There’s just might not be priority for them or they, but they have power, they have control. That’s why you’re pitching them either. 

PF These are so instinctually awkward, right? You’re asking someone for something that they may not want to give you. And this is, everything about modern big organizational life is designed to keep awkward confrontations and connections like this from ever happening. And yet, unfortunately, in order to make any kind of progress, they do, they have to happen. 

RZ They have to happen. And like it or not, you’re selling. We don’t call it sales, I’m going to sell you something.

PF You can always just say growth, say growth, you’re helping with growth. Don’t say sales, you’re not allowed to say that at work. We’re all growing. 

RZ So when are you pitching, you deal with all sorts of people, all sorts of personalities, all sorts of agendas, and the like. And so we’re going to go through a few of them.

PF Yeah, it’d be helpful is somebody can break down exactly which kinds of people I might be dealing with. 

RZ Yeah, it turns out there’s only five categories of humans in the world. So here go.

PF Wow. That’s incredibly simple, people are so lucky they’re on this webinar. 

RZ So, naysayers. Naysayers, change makes them nervous. They just don’t want to rock the boat, right? They tend to counter with a lot of ‘but what about…’ scenarios, right? They, they run to the edge cases, and can really bring drag to a conversation. They just don’t like taking risks. What can you do? You rarely can win over naysayers with words, it’s very hard to do, because they have a particular posture, some of it is born out of their personalities, born out of their, their sort of mindset. And the best thing you can do is show real stuff, right? And share broadly. And what you find is that—

PF You don’t win them over with words, right? That’s the key thing. And which means that you don’t win them over at first, and this is your boss 90% of the time. And so think about how would I convince them given six months? Not how can I convince them in one meeting. This can be really frustrating, especially early career where you’re like, “if we just fix the app, everything will be a little bit better.” And your boss is like, “Uhhh…” Think about four or five, six months, what would it take to get them to your way of thinking?Then that’s your job. 

RZ Incumbents. Incumbents are interesting. They’re kind of like naysayers. But they’re not defiant. The thing about incumbents is they’re very good at using the old stuff, and they defend it, right. And the reason for that is they’re in control, they have a greater level of control and their skills are highly optimized to the way things are today. And some people wear that proudly, actually, I’m very good at this thing that you think is terrible, because I’m a master at it. Right? So what can you do there? Talk to them early and often. Use their knowledge as a basis for change. Essentially, what you’re saying is this, “this wouldn’t have happened without you and your deep knowledge of this thing,” versus the opposite, which is “I’m going to impose a thing on you and you better train up for it,” right? So by including them in the formation of this of this future state, that’s a very powerful thing and keep them in the loop throughout. Don’t force it. That’s another key point. And the point that really we’re making here is don’t say “Hey, listen, on June 8th, system one is going to get shut off and system two is coming on and you better be ready for it. You better get trained.” Try to overlap. 

PF This is the theme right? Which is that you know you’re right. They don’t believe you. That It seems intolerable. But you’re not going to convince them just by having a meeting, you’re going to pitch, you got to get some evidence together, you have to prove to them that your idea is going to, to move your product or your platform forward. 

RZ Good ole’ platformers and platformers are just saying, “Why are you doing that? We can just use this.” Right? You know, whether it be Salesforce or WordPress or whatever. They don’t like custom software, they’re suspicious of software inventors, right? Software is scary to them to a large extent. They’ve seen a lot of bad stories around time and money wasted with software. The thing with platformers is they’re not entirely wrong. They’re probably partly right, at least, right? And so don’t reinvent, you shouldn’t do it for the sake of reinvention. What you can do is share a clear rationale that explains why your path is the right one. And it could be a hybrid. That’s another thing worth mentioning. Sometimes it’s partly custom, partly not, and that’s okay, too. But don’t reinvent when you don’t need to.

PF They are a major source of fatality for Postlight. If somebody brings us in, like “We need a custom platform, we need to fix this. All of our systems are kind of a mess. I found this shop, they seem really cool. Let’s talk to them.” And the person on the other side of the desk goes “Why don’t you use squiggly-boo?” And we go, “Well, you could.”

RZ Yeah. You always can, right? That’s the reality. 

PF They’re like, “Well, I would prefer that I like their analytics dashboard better.” Then we’re like, “Well, why am I here? This is garbage. You made me drink this coffee from a Keurig so that you can tell me that?” Anyway, back to boss’ boss. I didn’t mean to derail.

RZ The boss’ boss is a very hard one to win over. Very hard. Why? Because you really get to connect with them, right? They’re too far away to connect to but they, you can feel power, right? Kind of you there’s a heat coming off. Because if the initial ‘no’ it’s kind of dead, or they initial ‘yes’ and it’s good to go. But you can’t reach him. Right? So they judge you kind of from afar, right? It’s all sort of digital hearsay, it’s spreadsheets and memos and emails that are sort of, their whispers—or forwards. The forward with a question mark, like, ‘Why? Why are we doing this? Why are we even bothering doing this?’ is very powerful from someone that’s higher up the chain. So what can you do? Start a PR campaign, recruit advocates. There are people who oftentimes need help with the language to use to win over decision makers, and you can help them right, you can empower them. That’s what the rest of this presentation is about, is about empowering advocates. And let them echo your pitch up the chain. 

PF Listen, my friend, the one thing that’s really tricky here is that this is one of those cases where empathy going in the opposite direction that empathy should usually go meeting way up the chain is really, really valuable for you achieving your own goals. Here’s what I mean, that boss’ boss, who is going to make a decision about your thing, your beloved thing, the new version of the website, the better app, the community platform, whatever, they can only see one or two lines on the spreadsheet. That’s what you are, there is no way to be anything else. We’ve been into pitches where they say, well, we already have messaging, and they’re talking about like a, like an SMS product, right? Like, we’re doing something totally different. They’re like, but we already have it, they match keywords. So you need to actually try to see the world through their point of view and make sure that whatever you package up is something they can see and perceive. 

RZ So let’s focus on a key distinction across all of these stakeholders. This is, I think if you if you see things through this lens, it helps you frame how you’re going to pitch how you’re going to gain consensus. But first, a little bit of history, Paul.

PF Woodstock?

RZ It’s not Woodstock. It’s the Cuban Missile Crisis. Close though. So in 1962, Kennedy is President and satellite imagery showed that Russia had started to load up nuclear missiles in Cuba, which is a two hour whatever boat ride away from from the Southern Coast of Florida.

PF The USSR at that point, not Russia.

RZ It’s the USSR at that point. Yes. Thank you. Thank you, Paul. And it was a very scary time, because we thought that these two superpowers were going to obliterate the earth. Essentially. It was such a terrible two weeks that it shaped a lot of the Cold War after that. 

PF I mean, the next time you came this close to nuclear war was through software malfunction in the 80s. Which says something about our industry, sorry to derail, but we’ll, we’ll come back to that.

RZ Yes, we will, actually. And so what what took hold is a sort of system of getting along, so to speak, called detente and what detente is essentially, it’s a premise that the safest thing to do is to do very little, we’re not going to be best friends. We both have enough missiles to blow the world up 50 times over. How about we just not do much and just agree to not make any sudden movements, right. If either side does less, it’s safer for everyone. No sudden movements. And I shouldn’t say sort of worked, it entirely worked. You know, there’s a particular stakeholder who has a perception of technology as extremely scary, extremely risky and necessary, like you needed for deterrence. I need those missiles anyway. But I got to live with it. So they’ve used software as sort of this necessary evil. And software is very scary and risky to them. 

PF To be totally clear, the software in this context is a nuclear explosion. That’s how it’s perceived.

RZ That’s right. And you know, they are, they fear that sort of aberration, like that wild incident, the security breach. So they view software as kind of this thing they have to contain. Just let’s not let it cause any damage, right. And they also really love software updates, it makes them feel better, things just got a little bit better, very incrementally, when they get a software update. It just feels good. I’m not gonna lie. I like getting software updates.

PF You know you get that service pack, it just feels safe. You know, it just installs there’s like, 80,000 new things. And when it does that little circle, just keep spinning and it’s just, ah, it’s going to be so much on the other side. 

RZ It’s very soothing. To contrast that, to contrast the detente diplomats, there are the dreamers, right? They see untapped possibilities in software, they are far less discouraged by the risks. In fact, they don’t get bogged down with them. They don’t see the, they don’t really get trapped in the how and all the things that can go wrong. They’re just excited about the possibilities of what this thing can do. 

PF Wait, Rich, which one should I be?

RZ You should be a dreamer, Paul. They see technology as transformational. They tend to be more passionate than diplomats. A dreamer, you know, the classic profile of a dreamer is the entrepreneur, right? The tech entrepreneur believes that are going to change the game with whatever they’re going to bring into the world. So Paul, dream big, go big or go home. Nobody says that anymore, by the way, I don’t know why. Transformational change is not diplomatic, be a dreamer, speak aspirationally about the transformative possibilities of software, and recruit other dreamers, even incumbents and naysayers and all these types of stakeholders we talked about can get excited.

PF Rich, before we get to this part, man, my company has a lot of trouble shipping software, you’re telling me to dream? Like what would you tell me next? 

RZ What I’m going to tell you next is, unless you are—and we should talk about this—if you are a executive and a firm that’s been given a mandate, you don’t have to sell anything to anyone, you get to tell them, “Here’s what we’re going to do. And we’re going to ship in six months before the holidays because it’s going to be big. And I need to plan by next week” and off, everyone knows, and they sort of align because that is and I’ll say it bluntly, power, right, you’re essentially exerting there’s an ask here that isn’t much of an ask, it’s a mandate, we’re going to do this, we’re going to mobilize and we’re going to go forward. That’s easier, frankly. You don’t have to go through all this trouble. If you are one of those executives, please reach out to Postlight, you can shut off the rest of this podcast, you don’t need to know any of this, because all you do is send a memo out.

PF I’m gonna watch the participant number just cut in half now that you’ve said that. [Rich laughs]

RZ Right? So for the rest of us, we need good tools to gain momentum to get that consensus.

PF No worries, I can just open up a piece of software on my desktop and persuade people of my big ideas. 

RZ Mhm.. what’s that piece of software, Paul? 

PF PowerPoint. I mean, ironically, we’re doing this with Keynote. But same idea.

RZ Same idea. 

PF I mean, you know, jury’s out. But let’s hope so.

RZ PowerPoints suck. Words are boring. Boxes and lines are also boring. Nobody wants to be lectured about what success looks like for 40 minutes while they’re looking at PowerPoint slides.

PF But except on this webinar, that’s different.

RZ Except for this webinar. Thank you, Paul. Nobody is propelled into a dream state with PowerPoint. PowerPoint plus LSD will take you to a dream state. PowerPoint alone will not take you to a dream state. 

So you should distribute hallucinogens to all of your senior management, maybe in their coffee before each meeting. That’s the end of this webinar. 

RZ The last bullet here is worth probing for a second. When you when you present decks, you’re asking people to imagine some future state on their own. And if you’ve got eight people in the room, you’re going to have eight different sort of visions of what the future can be, and some won’t even bother. Some are thinking about lunch, some are thinking about what could go wrong. And so there’s too much of a void. There’s too much work that has to get done here.

PF But you know, I can’t emphasize, you know, that is really key, right? Like again, this can sound really simple. It’s gotta be so simple. You think that you could prove your point through logic and reason and tons of supporting data. But when you actually get time to present, it’s got to be something very, very different that people can internalize and live with. 

RZ So how do we get those people really excited? With design. Design is usually viewed as part of the process. We’ve kicked off the project. There’s PRDs, there’s requirements, we’re going to talk to users, we’re going to profile them, we’re gonna do some research. We’re gonna wireframe, we’ll go back to the users, we’ll put some designs in front of them, get their feedback, off to engineering. So it’s sort of inside of that end of the process. So I want to shift here and pick up inspiration from a couple of different sources. Alright, so I don’t own any Polo menswear. Do people still say menswear? 

PF Sure, of course they do. Of course they do.

RZ I don’t wear Polo. I am not a fan or anything like that. It’s just not my thing. But I was watching a documentary called Ralph.

PF It’s a rough name for a documentary.

RZ About Ralph Lauren, the founder of—

PF I have seen you wear your shirts like this. 

RZ What’s that supposed to mean? Where are you going with this?

PF Nothing, it’s little Bay Ridge thing, I think. 

RZ Ohhh, the extra button. I am from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Yes, that’s, that’s true. 

PF He’s not wearing a crucifix, though. [Rich laughs]

RZ He is not wearing a crucifix. So I’m watching this documentary about Ralph Lauren. And it’s fascinating, amazing life, hugely successful. And at one point, he says, you know, “I’m not a fashion designer.” And they’re like, What do you mean? And he said, “You know, I never went to fashion school, I don’t consider myself an exceptional designer.” And they said,  well what, what do you attribute to your success? And he said, “I’m more like a movie director, I pay more attention to the surrounding experience that I want to put the viewer in, I think about a life that that person may aspire to want. And I put them there and my clothes happened to be part of it, right?” He has a shop on the Upper East Side, that’s like a house, if you walk in, it’s like cherry wood and leather and whatnot, there’s things you can buy. But really, the shop is almost this sort of, you’re stepping into this way of living and whatnot. And so here, I mean, I’ve never worn shorts and a blazer.

PF I’ve never been on a boat like that. I didn’t know that you had to wear a boat coat. But I learned that from this. That’s what you’re trying to tell me. 

RZ That’s what I’m trying to tell you! Exactly. So essentially, he’s trying to transform and transport that viewer to this other way of living and see saw success out of that. Another great sort of source of inspiration here to sort of make this point is around real estate agents. Real Estate Agents are incredible people, they sell properties, and they buy properties and the like. And one of the things they do and one of the tools they use is an open house. An open house is it’s sort of this block of time where you can go and just sort of meander around the house, they don’t really chase you, others are going as well. And you get to sort of experience the space and experience living there. And one of the sort of industries within the real estate world is staging. Now, this doesn’t look terrible to me, this is a before picture of a stage property. And this is that same property. 

PF What’s wild is look at how much bigger it is, in the like, clearly Photoshop staged version. Also, what’s weird is they’re keeping the motif of animals can rugs between two versions. 

RZ I mean, that could be the homeowner saying this, the animal skin rocks got to stay in no negotiation there. So what’s happening here, what’s happening here is they’re hoping that the potential buyer is going to take a moment and live in the space for a moment essentially experience what like, imagine their future state living in this piece of property. So it’s actually less about the square footage, and more about the sort of transformational opportunity in front of that person to say they want it. You know what’s another trick they use Paul? Some of them actually bake cookies right before the open house. So the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafts through the house as you walk around.

PF No cookies for you unless you’re pre approved for a mortgage, you just crumble right in front of your face. [Rich laughs]

RZ Fair enough, fair enough. So design gives a glimpse into a possible future, it is the ultimate leave behind. And so it takes a lot of work. By the way, we’re stealing a page here from what a lot of big agencies do. Agencies like RGA, when they see an opportunity, they actually mobilize entire teams and spend significant resources, creating these potential experiences. And they may never get the business, right, because they see how incredibly powerful it is to show a real experience that someone can imagine as they look forward. So the power of that is kind of outside of the process. This is not after requirements. What you’re saying here is we’re going to transform, we’re going to show you what this future state can look like. So the persuasive power of design can show up in a lot of different ways, right? So experiences that feel real can transform people. It puts audiences in a future state. It also entertains. Instead of sending me a six page memo, you’re actually giving me a thing I can look at and it’s pretty and it’s I can touch it, maybe, if it’s interactive, make it engaging, right, that’s a big deal. Another great point, make it easy to share and socialize. You know, to me the killer feature in InVision, I think people still use InVision. I’m not entirely sure.

PF Clarke does. Clarke uses InVision.

RZ Clarke he uses InVision! It’s the URL, you just hand the URL over. And people can open up this experience. That’s a very big deal, right, to socialize it. And I came up with this phrase, Paul, I don’t really feel about it, the angel is in the details.

PF Ah, I mean, fine, we’re gonna allow it. It’s a webinar. 

RZ Okay. Appreciate it. So, look, you can do nothing. And if you’re incredibly persuasive, and charismatic, good for you, and you can hopefully get what you want. You can use PowerPoint. We’ve seen there’s good ways to use PowerPoint, by the way, we took a took a dump on PowerPoint, but as you’re seeing here, in this incredibly elegant presentation, PowerPoint can be used in really good ways. But it’s not great, right. And most people don’t use it in good ways. Wireframes are good. But wireframes are not great looking wireframes are sketches, usually the sort of solve problems, less so than to sell. I’ve had stakeholders point out that the wireframe doesn’t look great. Not fully processing that it’s not supposed to look great. It was a quick and dirty. And so ‘why is everything gray?’ So they can actually create some dissonance there, right? Detailed designs, now we’re talking right? Like good looking glossy, I call them glossies, or high fidelity designs are just very powerful as a persuasion tool, if they can click around and interact with it even better right? Now, and here’s the reality for a lot of non technologists they don’t, they think you’re on your way. They see something interactive, they’re like, ‘Oh, I guess we’re off to the races here!’ And that’s very powerful. And then sort of the ultimate thing you can do, to me, this is the digital equivalent of baking the cookies in the open house, Paul, is actually make it work, build some functionality and make a point.

PF The thing about this that really strikes me is, ’cause I come from a editorial background, right? Like, there’s one three word rule around editorial work and around writing, which is ‘show don’t tell’. And that actually applies in business as well. But it takes more time. And you have to actually kind of marshall evidence and tell a story and, and sort of get inside of the the mind of the audience. But this hierarchy is very real. And if you need to really convince people of something, the closer you can get to that red box on the top, because you can get to showing rather than telling what you’re building, the more likely you are to find success. The good news is that because everybody, a meeting won’t accomplish what you think it will, you’ve got six months anyway.

RZ That’s right. And you know, for Postlight, a lot of times what we create really kind of has no end game, it’s sort of this thing we’re leaving on the desk, and hoping it gains steam. And sometimes we won’t hear from people for months, but it’s out there and it’s getting shared around and people are talking around it. And that’s a very powerful thing.

PF That’s a good point. A lot of our work is not building software, but building things that people can then walk around with that have a kind of software like aspect to them. And then eventually they say, okay, because I actually have to rearrange the way the business is going to work before they go ahead and build it. 

RZ That’s right. And they have to convince others, right, which is sort of this overarching point, the more immersive the artifact, the greater the level of advocacy that’s going to get generated not just by the person you spoke to, but potentially others you speak to as well, they speak to as well. So design is the ultimate tool for building, I had to come back to that graphic. 

PF I’m sure I’m sure that anyone for designers, you see that palette with the colors and going that’s just on the nose, just you did it, you got it.

RZ I’m not going back into Slack, I’m going to stay out of Slack for a bit and hope for the best. So building consensus means creating enthusiasm and advocacy. You’re not only sales, we said earlier, you’re selling, right, which we don’t use the word but you are selling. You are marketing, you’re hoping that these tools, these experiences you’re leaving behind will gain their own steam, right. The words you convey and the tools you use are key to building consensus. Paul, dream big.

PF I’m dreaming big right now. I am. I like to dream. That’s that’s why people come to us, to help them with their dreams. Yes. 

RZ Thank you all so much for joining us. I hope this was a little different than what we would usually present, usually we get into the weeds and I don’t know where questions would even be.

PF I think there’s a little button for q&a.

RZ “How do you introduce the concept of time without dropping a deadline to the people have second thoughts when you’re pressed to deliver within a deadline?” 

PF That’s a good one. That’s exactly right. Yes. 

RZ Here’s what we do. Time, money are all details. If the dream is big, if people are excited, lay low on that. When they say “how long will it take?” right out of the gate say “Well what do you think of this thing? Are you excited about it?” Because if they are excited about it, they’re going to be more tolerant of what the costs are going to be, and by costs we mean money, time, etc. Right? So sell the ‘what’ first the ‘how’ is never pretty, right, like once you get the house, you’re bought in. You buy a house, immediately the doors come off the hinges, all the problems kick in. It’s a house right? But for that moment, you’re almost in a dream state, right, you’re just you’re just happy that you’re going to have this thing. So defer time and costs.

PF Look, if you have to present it, then you kind of that’s when your voice gets kind of gravelly, and you start to act a little wise, you’re just like, “Well, you know, every time you look at these things, there, it’s four or five, six months, you have seven to eight months.” You actually keep adding. The bad news early is usually actually received pretty good, pretty well. You think that people are expecting you to promise a miracle. But sometimes they are, most of the time they aren’t. Most of the time they just want to know what the damage is so they can start to calculate it, because they’ve got all these other things going on. 

RZ Oh, we’ve got three more questions. From Josh, “how do you sell when you are resource constrained, making a beautiful working thing takes a good bit of effort.” It’s a great point, you sometimes can’t. But what we’ve found, especially outside of the agency world is that if people are excited about a thing they get to draw on a blank sheet, they like doing it, they like the opportunity to kind of go astray a little bit and not be in in the normal routine. Look, the reality is sometimes you just don’t have time, you’re just running and running and running. But make that time, you know, you can call it you know, sort of free time or lab time or whatever it may be. That’s a fun, those are fun. Because you’re dreaming, you’re actually conjuring up things that aren’t handed down, but rather are sort of fun and interesting. 

PF Yes, there is a way to do a prototype or let’s say working prototype, that’s a lot, you really do need focus, you need a team, or at least people with different skills working on it. But let’s say something rough and interactive in InVision, do it yourself and show it to a designer. And you’re going to find that they take it away for four hours and fix it up as long as it’s not too big. Because it’s so annoying to them that you did a bad job, yet the tools are just good enough for you to get the rectangles lined up. So you can actually annoy people into helping you by showcasing your own incompetence. And it’s a technique that I’ve used a million times as a manager.

RZ The designers love to clean up your stuff. 

PF Write bad code if you want an engineer to show you something, just write some bad code, be like what do you think? [Rich laughs]

RZ So Todd has a question, “how about when we are talking about getting consensus around a major process change across multiple teams?” Oof. 

PF That’s not easy. Like, first of all, there is no like magic turnkey, without a ton of just human effort involved on that, right? 

RZ That’s right. I don’t know if design helps you a ton here, you may have a really great whimsical diagram. But that’s still a major process change. I think one of the ways you may want to do it is to make it a series of minor process changes that take hold and show benefit and gain momentum that way rather than this decree that comes down that we’re going to change how we work entirely. Again, if you’re the president, or you’re the you know, General Manager of you know, a group, you may just declare it.

PF Yeah, but even then people are resistant. Like the the one thing that seems to work, what you see a lot of times is resistance from leaders inside of an org, especially if it’s a big org, is there, a lot of them are actually just trying to protect their people and trying to protect their overall process. So they’re like, “Oh, great, you want to do that? Well, you just, yeah, I got 20 people who do it the other way. And now you just cost me a lot of time.” So if your team if the team that’s driving the change will go and sit with their stakeholders and listen to them and take notes and be like, we’re going to address their issues. And those people tell their boss, “Hey, I actually think this could be good for us.” They’re gonna go way caller really, really quickly. That is, it’ll be like, you’ll be surprised. So if there’s going to be three or four groups that are going to be touching something and you go and you really hold their hands for a minute, you’ll see that the temperature goes down week by week.

RZ Kyle has a question. “When you present high fidelity mock ups or working prototype, how do you explain why it will take time, maybe a long time to build the actual thing?” If they are in that state where they want it, they’ve decided they want it right? They’ve fallen in love with it, the time it’s going to take just won’t seem as difficult as otherwise. Because when you decided you want the thing, you’ll you want to create, the ultimate situation for a broker is a competitive process, right? Meaning there’s more than one bidder looking to buy that house. And what they want is somebody to be—they’ve just, they’ve put blinders on. Like, they’ve just decided this is where my children will grow up. And they’re almost reaching almost an irrational state, because they want the thing if they can afford it. Here, you want to get them to that state first. And then if they’re in that state, telling them that what you’re viewing here is bad news is like, “Okay, I need it. This is gonna bump up my business by 15%. I want the thing. I get it, I get it.” And so you got to get them in that state of euphoria first, I would say.

PF That’s right. Peter Olson has an amazing question. I’m gonna read it to you. It’s actually it’s a hard one. “So you’ve agreed InVision, and customers think it’s real, you’ve got that buy-in. Now the company decides to not fully invest due to other priorities. Now we’ve raised customer expectations, but disappointed them because we cannot deliver tomorrow, or even today because they think it exists, instead of vague sometimes or InVision, the journey, what good was my InVision prototype, except being a really good looking demo that creates disappointment? I’ve been burned. And now my job is repairing relationships.” 

RZ Wow. 

PF This will be our last question too. How do we dig Peter out of this? 

RZ Yeah, I mean, Peter’s done. It’s a lost cause. We can’t help Peter. Sorry Peter. Just kidding. Look, showing futures, like concept to customers is a very dangerous game you’re playing there, you should know who your customers are, and that they understand the process and the work around that thing. But I don’t know what the product is here. But if you’ve got people who don’t have an appreciation for how much of a lift that requires to get these things done, you could really set them up for disappointment, right? I think you got to hold those closer to the vest. Hopefully, you’ve got a culture inside your company that can see these things, can understand their value and also understands the the related costs of making them real. 

PF Being really good at picking if sales is driving there, too. If they’re like, okay, come on—

RZ Sales loves running stuff.

PF They see that demo and they’re like, “Hey, can I show this to customers?” And you’re like, “Well, yeah, that would be really interesting to get that feedback.” And now you’ve ruined your year. 

RZ Never give sales edit rights.

PF No, that’s right. Sales only gets PDFs. And they usually they need a big alerts on top of it. 

RZ That’s right. I mean, I’ve seen sales people create UI in Excel, to make a point around a pitch. They’ll use anything, they will use anything. Great question though. Thank you, Peter. And thank you everyone. Look at that, Paul, 1:59pm. Great discussion. 

PF We gotta run a meeting.

RZ Thank you for attending. Stay tuned for part three, which will come soon. Check out the Postlight Podcast. And thanks so much. We’re really glad, this was a lot of fun.

PF Yeah, we would love to see you in the office when this is all over. Come from Greece, come from Marlborough road.

RZ Yes.

PF Thank you friends!

RZ Have a great day.

PF Thanks everybody.

RZ Be well.

PF Ping us with anything you need. Hello@postlight.com. We like to hear anything. Bye! [music ramps up, plays alone for 3 seconds, ends]