Fallacy Friday! Bananas and Clearly Communicating

I got bored with not blogging and couldn’t wait till Movember so welcome back to Fallacy Friday! This is part two of a major new series that on sporadic Fridays explores two common things that everybody does but nobody knows they’re doing wrong!

1. Eating bananas

STOP! You’re eating your banana all wrong!

If, like me, you follow the convention that fruit eating is so simple you don’t give it a moments thought, you’ve probably wasted that moment instead of investing it wisely in understanding the correct way to eat fruit.

Take the banana.

Most people peel a banana from the pointy end. They clasp the banana in one hand and the stick like bit in the other and tug violently. This results in a traditionally peeled banana, the peel is lopsided and comes away from the fruit in jagged tears, like when peeling wallpaper off of a wall. Consider the monkeys.

Monkeys know how to peel a banana correctly. Instead of using the stick like bit as a lever to wrench the peel off with, they hold the banana by the stick like bit, as if it were a lolly stick. Then they peel from the other end. So.

The result? The peel comes away like in a cartoon banana, neatly flopping down the sides. You don’t bruise the banana. But for me the real plus point is those funny unappealing stringy bits come away with the peel. No more banana strings!

NB Are you sick of peeling your kiwi fruit?
All those nasty hairs? End your kiwi hair misery by simply cutting the top off your kiwi fruit and eating the insides with a spoon, as if the kiwi were a boiled egg!
I’ve seen another method which involves slicing the whole kiwi in half around its equator, then sliding the knife down inside loosening the flesh away from the skin. Then they pop out whole with a little thumb pressure.

So, that’s fruit done with, the second fallacy this Friday is…

2. Clearly Communicating

Can’t be done. You’ll have noticed that by now surely? We are all utterly alone in a bleak uncomprehending universe barking throat sounds at each other in the hope of catching someone’s attention long enough to distract yourself from the cold fact that you have their attention now, but will die alone.

“oh..I didn’t know you had company. I’ll pop back later”

On the other hand communicating clearly with people does have more going for it than as a distraction from the never-ceasing approach of eternal darkness.

There’s all sorts of good books about communication, google them why don’t you as I’m not going to cack-handidly try and summarise whilst putting a new spin on it or make into a tacky gimmick.
I’m not going to be wasting tacky gimmicks on somebody else’s ideas, I keep them for my own

But here’s the one fallacy I reckon more than anything else that we all fall for.

That other person you’re speaking to?
They’re not you.

Write that down. It’s easily forgotten.

Words are just labels for ideas. Ideas live inside people’s heads and you can’t see inside people’s heads unless you try really hard.

…which WILL get you into trouble these days

Turns out that people insist on having insanely different ideas but calling them by the same word that you call your perfectly sane and reasonable ideas.

Look here for example. Audit Scotland have produced a guide for Scottish local authorities on how to manage and improve performance.

We’re into that! Right?
Lets see what they say!

Here is their improvement cycle. Plan,Do,Review,Revise. Yes that old chestnut. There’s nothing more tedious than listen to types like me (and you) debate the best wording of the Shewhart improvement cycle, whether it is, or should be, PDSA,PDCA or my personal favourite. Check Plan Do. They’re just words.

The important thing is the thinking behind those words. Look closely at this picture. Those words.

20121005-114643.jpg They’re a bit small, but under Review these people suggest that this include “Scrutinise performance and hold those responsible to account“.
Eh? I thought this was the Shewhart cycle for learning and improvement?
How does “holding those responsible to account” aide learning or improvement? Sounds more like some sort of peremptory witch hunt. I’d change this section from Review to Blame.

Under the Do section it includes the phrase “Support staff to achieve their objectives”. We’ve found them! Those ones to be held accountable. Awesome!. What next! What next!

Under the box that purports to show a learning and improvement cycle, there is an example from an auditors report into a Scottish Local Authority. Auditors always need something to inspect against and here they are inspecting against that silly diagram. Here’s what they found:

“we reported that work was under way to map the service plans’ objectives and performance measures against the council’s strategic priorities, key actions and the SOA outcomes. This work has been completed resulting in improved linkages between key objectives, strategic priorities and the SOA within service plans.”

No, wait come back! I’ll not quote any more at you. Just sit still and think this is what the PDSA/PDCA cycle means to some people.
Not a structure for experimenting and learning. Instead a device for arranging plans so they link (???) and can be shown to impress a Scottish Auditor.
20121005-124904.jpg
That sound you hear isn’t Deming spinning in his grave. No, he has crawled out his grave raised a Systems Thinking Zombie Army of the undead to march on the HQ of Audit Scotland and that sound you hear is actually their unearthly moans for brains. Auditor brains.

How did they get it so wrong?

So, no chance for communication. People will insist on thinking their own thoughts. No matter how silly.

On the other hand here’s some truly excellent communication. See if we can learn anything from this.

Awesome yes?
It hits every button of the Made To Stick SUCCESS model of good sticky communication.
S: it’s simple. Says one thing, first aid can save as many lives as are lost through cancer.
U: it’s unexpected. Both the story itself and its message.
C: it’s concrete. There is a man with cancer who survived to choke to death on a burger.
C: it’s credible. It’s the St.John’s ambulance. They know what they’re talking about and there’s numbers to back it up too.
E: it’s emotional.
S: it’s a story. In a few minutes we see somebody getting cancer, being diagnosed, being treated, getting better then dying accidentally. We know he has a daughter and a wife. A tiny story perfectly told with virtually no words spoken.
So it can be done.

Keep Systems Thinking and have a lovely day!

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One Response to Fallacy Friday! Bananas and Clearly Communicating

  1. Can’t believe you haven’t been eating kiwis with a spoon for years. I thought it was the only way!

    The St John’s advert certainly was sticky, but was it accurate? I think that may still be open to debate

    http://fullfact.org/factchecks/st_john_ambulance_numbers-28206

    Great post

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