That’s Intriguing #67: Innovative EBIFanies from BIF-7: “Focus on What’s Strong; Not What’s Wrong”

“You can’t build on broken.” – Angela Blanchard, www.Neighborhood-Centers.org

Wise advice from Angela Blanchard, the visionary leader of the team who turned Houston’s AstroDome into a home-away-from-home in one day following Hurricane Katrina to provide much-needed services to the thousands of refugees arriving on buses from New Orleans.

“Imagine losing your home, job, community and almost all your possessions . . . and not knowing what happened to your family members and friends.

One woman told us, ‘No one came, no one came for days. We thought the world had come to an end. We thought something much worse had happened ‘out there.’

We realized asking questions such as, “What happened? What did you lose or leave behind?’ would only drive these individuals deeper into despair.

We decided instead to focus on what they did have instead of what they didn’t; to build on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong by asking, ‘What skills and knowledge do you have? Who might you know in this area?'”

Angela spoke of the across-the-board decency and dignity of these uprooted Louisiana residents.

“When Neighborhood Centers and other philanthropic organizations filled gyms with donated presents to give at a holiday celebration, many only took 1 or 2 gifts. ‘There are a lot of people worse off than us who need them more than we do,’ they said graciously.”

Angela’s “You can’t build on broken” epiphany is universal and enduring.

Next time you’re facing a challenge, remember, “The best way to move things along is to focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong.”

P.S. In terms of POP!, why was Angela’s message so intriguing and “sticky?” Why did people continue to come up to her after her 15 minute presentation to thank her for her stirring insights?

One reason is because her conviction was so convincing. We were swept up in her heartfelt passion and vivid story-telling.

Another reason was she crafted her enduring insight – her eBIFany – into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymed.

Alliteration (words that start with the same sound – such as build-broken) gives our mind a hook on which to hang a memory.

Rhyme (wrong-strong) makes our language lyrical and our ideas instantly eloquent.

If you want people to remember and repeat YOUR insight – so they’re thinking about it, talking about it and acting on it days, weeks, months later – craft it into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymes to give it a long tail of influence.

Doing so will scale its impact – and isn’t that the point of communication?

Want more eBIFanies from BIF-7?

This inspiring conference, hosted by Saul Kaplan, showcases visionaries who saw a problem or opportunity and thought, “Somebody should do something about that.”

Then they thought, “I’m as much a somebody as anybody; I’ll do something about it.”

Their stories of how they figured out what to do when they didn’t know what to do show how we set our SerenDestiny® in motion when we care enough about something to do something about it.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a novel.

He thought about it for a moment and said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night. You can only see to the end of your headlights; but you can make the whole trip that way.”

The innovators featured at BIF-7 weren’t quite clear what their destination was at the outset. They weren’t exactly sure where they were going or how they were going to get there.

They didn’t let that stop them.

Their instinctive desire to solve and serve told them, “Just ‘cause you don’t know isn’t an excuse not to go.” They just started driving.

And because they did, www.GlobalGiving.org exists. www.BigPictureLearning.org exists. www.WillowCreek.com exists. www.FutureLogic.com exists. www.Climb7.com exists. www.HealthLeadsUSA.org exists. www.Seriosity.com exists. www.Intent.com exists.

You’ll hear more about the above organizations (which represent just a few of the brilliant 30 thought-leaders who spoke at www.BIF-7.com ) in upcoming blogs.

Subscribe if you’d like to know how they got out of inertia and uncertainty and drove to the end of their headlights when there was no “there” there.

And, be sure to go to www.BusinessInnovationFactory.com to check out their BIF-7 highlight videos and @thebif Twitter feed, to join their community of “transformation artists and audacious change-makers,” and to access their blog, book club and video studio that can help you and your colleagues “unleash and accelerate the transformative power of innovation.”

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