Studio Generale: Communicating Your Ideas

05.04.2012, 16:09
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Wednesday’s installment of the weekly Studio Generale session included 3 guest speakers from McKinsey & Company, a world leading consulting company. If you ever struggled with trying to find a solution for a problem, delivering a clear presentation and working in a team, these tips, given by Stephan and Yermolai Solzhenitsyns and Vladimir Cernavskis can be useful.

The first step you need to take when tackling a problem is to actually properly describe the problem. Without clearly defining it, you are likely to do research you don’t need and gather data you don’t know how to use. There needs to be a structural approach to problem solving and there are 7 ways to do that:

— Formulate the right question is key for good research

— Divide the problem into elements

— Prioritize questions, i.e cut off minor questions that can be dealt with later

— Analyze the elements of the problem, gather data and make a detailed plan of work

— Perform a critical analysis of the problem

— Gather conclusions and arguments

— Prepare your presentation on the plan to achieve the solution

Another good tip to try out is called the Elevator Test. Its main point is to help you communicate your project as clearly as possible in a very short time. Try it out yourself: imagine that you are in an elevator with the CEO of a company you would like to work with and see if you can describe your project in 30 seconds. Seems easy? Not really. The most common mistake is to go into detail without conveying the main message.

Another approach to communicating your project is called Top-Down Communication. When you communicate a task you’ve done or a project you would like to do, it is essential to deliver a straight forward message like 1-2-3, bypassing the process, because the solution is more important than the process. You need to define:

1. What you want

2. Why you want it — because 1-2-3

For example:

“Dear Peter, I had to change the date of your flight to London to Tuesday because:
1. There were no cheap hotels on Monday
2. There was an earlier flight on Tuesday in time to make your meeting
3. You won’t miss your wife’s birthday. ”

This rule also applies when making a presentation. Before you jump to making slides you need to formulate the main idea and key arguments:

1. Formulate the main thought

— What will success of this meeting look like?

— What is the main idea you want to get across?

— What do you want from the management?

2. Think through your arguments

— Why do you think so?

— What will convince the leadership?

— What will be the structure of the presentation?

3. Prepare slides

— How can you illustrate your key arguments?

4. Prepare the pitch

A good slide has 3 levels of information:

1. Synthesis  — name

2. Summary  — titles or bullets or paragraphs

3. Facts — graphs, charts, numbers

A person can comprehend no more than 5 bullets per one column, so if you have a lot of points it is best to split them up into subgroups.

Finally, the presentation should have goals of the meeting that you assume are right and next steps for initiating discussion and debate.

When working in teams it is important to know that each newly formed group goes through four stages of development:

— Forming of group (people are cautious, getting to know one another)

— “Storm” (people are arguing, there is confrontation, difficulty)

— Normalization of the working process (the group self-organizes, tasks are solved, working rules are developed)

— Productivity (team spirit, confidence, support, exchange of ideas)

In order to work effectively you need to understand the personality types of your group. Here, a simple MBTI test of Carl Jung and Isabel Briggs Myers can help determine the typologies and define the different ways to work with people. You can try one yourselfhere. This in turn can help form better groups and identify leaders.