Archive for May, 2013

Storytelling – Once upon a time

May 28, 2013

I’ve been fascinated by the power of stories in the most diverse contexts. Be it while inventing a crazy tale for my kids (fun, specially when the kid loves surreal random stuff and girl loves consistency… a delicate balance), or during a presentation as an analogy or stage setting, sometimes during meetings to convey a strong message.

All cultures use stories. We are naturally hardwired, so it seems, to understand stuff through a narrative. It may be the best way ever invented by humankind to transfer implicit knowledge.

The Pixar story style is one vehicle to lay down a story. It uses a structure we can infuse with action, drama, suspense and humor. It goes like this (one of Pixar 22 rules):

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

I suggest you try this now for yourself. For something happening you need to share.

Katina, the impala and the tree

Katina, the impala and the tree, some rights reserved

One of my own I wrote while walking around Maputo for my older princess as an example:

Once upon a time there was an impala. Every day, she would jump over lions and sometimes would hit a tree, she found out trees are hard. One day, impala asked a giraffe what should she do to prevent hurting trees (and most of her frontal body). Giraffe said: “Change direction every jump”. Because of that, impala stopped hitting trees. Because of that, more trees survived. Until finally, giraffe had more leaves to feast upon.

Dan Pink has written a great book on this and other topics (clarity is a must) around selling ideas – a critical skill nowadays.


Interviewing (viewing internally)

May 2, 2013

Dialogue by Sharon Mollerus from Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

Some notes from my experience interviewing people in project context.


  • I propose two possible dates, making sure there is time in between for writing down what I’ve uncovered.
  • If it it’s not clear who fits the role I need, then I describe what he does and his responsibilities. Also, I state the main goal and topics of the interview I wish to go through.
  • I find two, maybe three, interviews per day is my maximum for really good interviews. Beyond that I can’t do it well – it’s demanding and draining.
  • In one paper sheet I list the context, goal and topics (preferably the interviewer already knows these beforehand) and put a few open questions that I can recall during the interview. I check them out at the end just in case.

Doing it

  • Throw first, present yourself and context: why are we here? Then what you want to know.
  • Begin with easy, non threatening questions, to overcome fear.
  • Look for interesting topics that come up. Rephrase them – that ensures you confirm your understanding and shows real listening attitude.
  • Allow for time, don’t rush the interview.
  • Be quiet (hard, really hard for me) and let them finish what they say.
  • I prefer a plain notebook and a pen. No computers. It’s a barrier.
  • At the end I always thank for the time and ask permission for further questions just in case I need more information.


  • Reserve 30 minutes right after the interview to jolt down your fresh notes in digital form. Trust me on this one.
  • Sometimes I use colors to isolate different types of information. This way I don’t have to force a structure in unstructured notes and still identify higher level qualitative information. More on this here from a previous comment.