Blog

The image-orientated blog about effectiveness, communication and innovation from Andy Gurnett of The Right Angle. Something to look at, something to read, something to ponder. 

Success: Do You Have What You Need?

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A few weeks ago I visited a friend in Australia. He wanted to photograph a waterfall inland from the Great Ocean Road. Not the kind of thing I usually shoot, but I took it as an opportunity to try something new. I even bought a tripod so I could do it justice.

I was very pleased with the results; this shot looking away from the waterfall is my favourite. But so many things could have stopped me getting this image. We miscalculated where the place was by maybe an hour and half of driving. When we realised, we went ahead anyway. When we got to where we thought we were going, it turned out we’d taken a wrong turn. The wrong dirt road. But lucky for us it lead to another waterfall. Except that the sign for the walking track said ‘DANGER! Do not enter. Falling trees.’ We pressed on. I hadn’t anticipated that the track would cross a stream several times. I had the wrong footwear. I got wet feet. We pressed on. I’d never used my tripod before. I’d never taken longer exposure shots. I’d never used the HDR function on my camera before. I’d never adjusted the white balance so specifically on this camera. But we did it. We experimented. We got the shots. But even if we hadn’t, we’d still have learned something: about the environment, the conditions for success, the tools needed to do the job. And the next time would have been easier.

It doesn’t matter whether you think you have everything in place to guarantee success, because you might be successful anyway. And if you don’t get the optimum result, you will still get something valuable.

A few weeks ago I was working with a group on a high-intensity sales presentation programme. There was a part of the programme where the participants had to break into groups of 4 to deliver their presentations to each other using PowerPoint. The organisers suddenly realised that there weren’t enough projectors for all the groups. That could have been a problem for a lot of people, but not the Regional Sales Director. Quick as a flash he helped one group open a laptop flat and prop it up against a whiteboard with the keyboard resting in the pen tray. Not perfect, but it worked. And that was all it needed to do. I got a strong feeling that the Sales Director always felt he had what he needed to be successful. And he is.

Do you have what you need to be successful? You know, you just might. Have a go. Press on. Use the resources around you. Learn from what happens. Stay focussed on the result but value the journey.

Innovation From Another Perspective

Another Perspective

As a three-day photographic project I decided to shoot an old shopping mall. After two long and productive days I felt like I had got all the images I could possibly have taken. I was done. My mentor encouraged me to go back though. Unmotivated, I did, and as I followed my now familiar path up and down the staircases and escalators I suddenly stopped dead, shocked at my unexpected inspiration. I would turn around and walk in the opposite direction. And just like that everything looked new and interesting again.

It is so easy for us to get into a rut, to follow the same path every day. It’s the path of least resistance, the one that makes us feel comfortable. But innovation is about change and innovative thoughts require us to think differently than we normally would. So, do you want to think more innovatively on a regular basis? Do you want to think differently to solve a problem? Do you need to come up with a new idea? Then you need some practical thinking tools and maybe a few little lifestyle changes to lift you out of your comfort zone.

When I work with people on their innovative thinking we push ourselves really hard to approach problems in ways we normally wouldn't. There are lots of great tools you can apply, but one of my favourites is to start by trying to walk in the opposite direction and brainstorm the total opposite of what you are trying to achieve. So, if we wanted to improve communication in our company, we’d start by thinking how we could ruin communication in our company. The freedom this gives your brain is amazing and the radical ideas come much more easily. It’s then a couple more simple steps to turn these new ideas into something useful and, most importantly, different.

You can change your own perspective too, to stimulate your brain and get it out of that rut. Try travelling a different route to work listening to something new - a podcast instead of music, or vice versa. Or eating a different lunch, in a different location, with a different person. Anything that changes your perspective. Rather than say ‘How do we fix this problem?’ try ‘What’s great about this problem?’ There are lots of ways to think differently. Try something new today and see how it stimulates your brain.


Does the photo stimulate your thinking in a different way? What have you tried to stimulate innovative thinking?

To see more of the images from this shoot you can look at Ming Arcade.

Clarity Begins At Home

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This abstract shot is of a housing block reflected in some plastic shielding on the inside of a window shutter. What’s appealing to me is the distortion of the reflected building. It got me thinking about communication and about how we all see the world differently.

Use any personality profiling tool and it will tell you that we approach things in different ways. Even the simplest of them will show you four distinct types. Roughly speaking that means that 75% of people approach tasks and communication in a different way to you. Yes that’s a huge over simplification, but what’s important is that we do all see things differently.

Sometimes we think we've been clear with our communication and something totally unexpected comes back to us. Or we’re surprised to find out we upset someone. And it can be hard for us to work out just what happened. Well, barring exceptional circumstances, the answer is that we didn't consider the person receiving the message, just the message itself. Have we got the facts straight? Yes? OK then it’s good to go… No it isn't.

You need to see the message with the other person’s eyes. We tend to write and speak according to our own knowledge, personality, experience, culture and emotional state. Our personal communication filters. But the person trying to absorb or act on that information is doing it through their own set of filters. So, for you to communicate effectively, you need to see how well you can align with their style, needs and preferences.

Do you think they’d prefer to talk in a quiet private place, or chat over coffee? Would you be best to lead by talking about results or process? If they turn up late looking stressed, maybe it would be better to talk about that rather than the changes you want to make to the project? And what about that email; is the person you are sending it to going to get a buzz from you asking about their holiday? Do they have the knowledge required to deal with a particular bit of jargon? Lots to consider.

Will you be able to pitch things 100% right for the person you’re communicating with? Imagine holding your own piece of plastic shielding and trying to match the reflection in the picture exactly. It’s not going to be easy. But the good news is that every little change you make to get you closer to their perspective will make you clearer, more empathetic, more trusted and more convincing.

Pause For Thought

I used to take lots of photographs of dragonflies. There is a knack to it. Patience is rather important and so is stillness.

The dragonflies whiz about all over the place. They zip off and do what they need to do. Maybe they are hunting, or competing with a rival, or looking for a mate, but they've got stuff to do! They get the job done and usually come back to the same perch. And so your patience and stillness are rewarded.

Dragonflies are fast, agile, high-energy creatures. I imagine if they behaved like that all the time they would soon burn out. But they don’t. They zip off, do what they have to do, zip back, and then they perch. And here’s my question. Do you take the time to perch?

In most jobs the work doesn't stop. There is always something else to do. Leaving the office and going home is just a time-out. The whistle goes and you are right back in the game. So we need to force ourselves to perch from time to time. Stop, take stock, survey what’s going on around you. It’s hard to be strategic when you are rushing from one task to the next.

One idea is to plan your perch time. Book a meeting with yourself in your calendar. Try one hour a week of protected time with yourself to reflect and plan.

Pause every now and then and stay as sharp as a dragonfly.


Does the photo stimulate your thinking in a different way? Do you have ways to help you pause for thought? 

How Do People Know You're Good If You Don't Tell Them?

This rack of neatly stacked and colour-coded lengths of metal really impressed me. Of course it's highly photogenic (these are the genuine colours, unphotoshopped), but aside from that I felt that the person that created it really knew what they were doing. Everything has its colour, everything is in the right place. Now imagine it without the colour coding. Would everything still be in the right place? No doubt. These guys know their stuff. They might be more likely to make a mistake, but generally things would be fine. But what would I think when I saw it? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be as impressed. To find out if they had done a great job I would have to investigate. And frankly, I don't have the time. 

In the workplace we have to find ways of letting people know we've done a good job, otherwise how are they going to know? If they are deeply embroiled in our project then yes they will probably know. But there are lots of situations that are not like that. Now nobody likes a showoff, and many of us feel very uncomfortable about blowing our own trumpet, so where can we find some balance?

Delivering a presentation? Why not talk about the problems you overcame and how you did it rather than just presenting the results? Handing over a report? How about including a little note with it praising the support you got from another department or recognising the various sources of your data - something that shows the breadth of your work or the skillful liaising that was done to get it completed? There are lots of non-chest-thumping things you can do that might gain you a little of the recognition you deserve. Put a bit of paint on it so that people can see what you did. Otherwise they might make the mistake of thinking it was nothing at all.


Does the photo stimulate your thinking in a different way? Do you feel getting recognised is important?