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message-toI often find that people fall into the pitfall of focusing only on “How to”, while forgetting “What” and “Why.” Many examples are found such as too much focus on how to increase ratio of women in managerial positions rather than “what”  issues/problems are trying to resolve. I have criticized this tendency of preferring “How to”s in Japanese society rather than “For what purpose”? and called them “How to”syndrome.
Now I find myself fall into this very pitfall. I planned to make short video of Davos Experience in Tokyo series to attract more new people to participate. I asked around and found the friend of my friend who would give it a try. We met to discuss the background of the series and what I want. We agreed that he would come to the session to get the feel for it and possibly to tape some.
As the date of the actual session did not work with his schedule, he came to my other activities such as key note speech, meeting, interview etc. and took some video.
img_1909Yesterday, he came to the seminar where I gave a key note and took some video. After that, we talked to discuss future dates of my activities, budget and rough delivery date. We talked about the format, voice over or not, etc.
In the meantime, I asked him to give training on video/cloud during the workshop series. (In fact, he gave me many tips which I did not know to make my work on Mac much more efficient!)
I felt good as we agreed on the plan, and went home. On my way, however, it dawned on me that what he is making will be my PR activity video and NOT short video introducing Davos experience in Tokyo series, which was my original wish.
I sent him a note immediately asking to halt the future taping for my PR video and to give us the training session only. I explained the departure we seemed to take from the original idea and my intention to pay for the work so far.
In a way, I was caught by “How to” syndrome. As we proceeded, we focused much attention to details of video-tone, voice, music etc. etc. and almost forgot that what I wanted was the short video of the workshop series, and NOT my PR video.
trapHe responded with kind note with analysis of how it all happened. He even introduced me to alternative way to prepare short video.
Now I realize how easy to fall in this trap.

How do we avoid this trap? you might ask. My suggestion is to step back as the activities proceed and remind ourselves the original question we were going to answer.  It is the same with writing. I make it a rule to start from conclusion after I spend some time and write some draft.  I go backwards from the conclusion to get the story clean and tight.  I remind myself the original question and ask whether my conclusion/message answers that particular question.   In order to do so, you need to set aside some time at the end.

It was a good lesson and I now have better feel for how and why people get trapped with “How to.”

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