Thought Leadership Studio Blog Posts:
Ability Suits and Limitation Masks for Marketing and Leadership
Empathy and awareness are very helpful in marketing and leadership. What if we could see, hear, and feel things from our audiences' different perspectives of what we do? How would that change how we educate and empower them?
A couple decades ago, I ran a company that provided corporate wellness programs, providing things like wellness profiles in mass for companies such as Bayer.
We processed long lines of folks to the rhythmic pulse of stepping to a beat (to check heart rate under exertion), occasional grunts, the smell of sweat and the hum of a printer spitting out their reports. These reports included interesting points like a "health risk appraisal" which answered the question "how old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" You could be 60 with the body of a 40 year old or have the chronological age of 40 but with the body of a 60 year old. Since many of the factors were lifestyle related, in some cases people could grow younger - from the perspective of health age.
Speaking of perspectives, these mass assessments were followed by lifestyle management lunch & learns with topics like exercise, stress management, nutrition, and motivation. We used props like rubber fat and muscle models. We passed these blobs around - as instructors played the Theme to Rocky and pointed to charts - so people could feel the relative squishiness of fat and firmness of muscle ... as well as see how much smaller 5 pounds of muscle is than 5 pounds of fat.
This led many to switch to more empowering types of goals. They got off of the scale-induced, whiplash-creating, up-and-down diet roller coaster and hopped on the steady, positive reinforcement train of lifestyle management - to their great benefit as evidenced by the many long-term healthy weight loss stories the program beget.
This is similar to how sales activity goals can change when you back up and see the whole system. These participants saw the system of how the weight of desirable calorie-burning muscle and the distortion of as much as 7 pounds daily water weight fluctuations made using only a scale for feedback misleading and demotivating.
Similarly, when we are over-focused on a particular sales activity or marketing goal we miss potential breakthroughs that could come from stepping outside of that frame to see the bigger picture. This enables us to to better see things like how following privacy-sensitized people with targeted ads can create negative sentiment towards a brand... or, conversely, how harvesting the research people do pre-purchase by feeding them with empowering, Strategic Thought Leadership content can create marketing breakthroughs.
We used other props besides the fat and muscle models in these wellness classes. Some of the most helpful devices were the ones that gave people virtual-reality like experiences of controllable, lifestyle-related limitations. There was a 30 pound "fake beer gut" you'd wear with suspenders, for instance, along with an apparatus that simulated inflexibility by limiting movement.
These were the opposite of ability suits which are metaphorical Iron-Man-like suits of extra abilities used in visualization exercises. An imaginary ability suit can help break past limitations of identity. It begets questions like "what if you could wear an invisible superpower layer that gives the ability to generate deep rapport and empathy with your customers, enhancing the relationships and creating a jump up in closing ratio and sales?" These are helpful thought experiments in the NLP based thought leadership coaching I do. If someone had trouble visualizing achieving a particular leadership goal, seeing it achieved while wearing a leadership ability suit - infused with the essence of great leaders - becomes easier. Then they lead and succeed at a higher level.
Back to the fake gut. We'd ask people to walk around with it and do a few ordinary tasks to experience the limitations of carrying the extra weight. They'd notice how they had to sit another way and bend over differently when picking things up. They'd feel themselves breathing hard after ascending a few, seemingly easy steps. We'd have them take it off to feel the difference when doing the same things, often to astonishment. Their worlds changed. Then we'd ask him or her to imagine "taking it off again" and envision how much easier and more enjoyable day to day life would be with yet another 30 pounds less fat. They'd imagine the greater ease of accomplishing more things with less effort and greater enjoyment. Some people would gasp and slowly smile as their vision of a new self - along with the motivation to achieve it - crystalized. You could hear the extra determination and confidence in their voice. You could feel the atmosphere in the room change. It created the same effect as an ability suit.
Ability Suits and Limitation Masks get us out of our presumed identities and create empathy and awareness, two things that are very helpful in marketing and leadership. What if we could see, hear, and feel things from our audiences' different perspectives of what we do? How would that change how we educate and empower them?
What if we had "limitation masks" that provided filtered lens for the eyes and filtered ear plugs for the ears so we could experience our company, service, philosophy, or product from typical prospects' more limited understanding of what we do?
What if we could step outside of our roles and see, hear, and feel things from the perspective of our audiences' different beliefs about our fields, products, services, and professions?
How would that change your message?
How would the content we provide to educate and empower them be different?
Remembering the great communicators always start with rapport, what would that mean for the growth of your audience and organization?