Select the right words. Say them well.


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After writing 167 different Monthly Memos it can be hard to come up with a new idea – which proved to be the inspiration for this very one! We all face it at one time or another. A new idea or approach is needed and you end up as the “Committee of One” to handle that responsibility. Or, you and a group of others have the assignment. Either way, there are some ways to kickstart the process and help the job seem like less of a burden.

What is the expectation? It is first important to understand what is expected by those who have handed you the job. Do they want a fully explored finished solution or jumping off points that then can serve as a launch pad for the real solution? Getting a clear understanding up front will be critical to the path you follow and your ultimate report. Asking these questions will show you are taking the assignment seriously and already demonstrates your organized thought process.

People like to help: If you are indeed a “Committee of One” realize most people are happy to offer some help, as long as they don’t feel they are being handed a lion’s share of the responsibility. Even having someone to act as a sounding board from time-to-time can be a real help. Connecting with people who aren’t part of the “inner circle” can be very helpful so you avoid the obvious answers and stretch into fresh territory. Finally, use caution around the first ideas that come to mind for you. Most everyone will have those ideas and, too often, you’ll come back with something that seems too obvious. I often suggest clients at least consider their “fourth or fifth idea” instead of that first one that pops up.

Start with Half of an Idea: As a featured reporter in Los Angeles television back in the day I was expected to come up with a new story or approach viewers were not going to see on the other five TV stations in the market. And I had to do that every day, five days a week. Sometimes I was just not up to the task. On those days I would come in and say, “Well, I have half of an idea.” Often, that was good enough because from that “half of an idea” we were able to grow something that actually worked! As you think and talk about your “new ideas” with others don’t be afraid to offer partial thoughts. From those acorns a great tree can grow.

Go beyond the search engine: Sure, a quick search can offer some food for thought as you work on your assignment, but just realize everyone can do that and they’ll likely see the same articles and videos. What unique perspectives do you have? What about those around you and, more importantly, those outside your circle? Again, avoiding groupthink is one of the real challenges for anyone tasked with coming up with a genuine “new idea.”

Present with confidence: Once you’ve done the hard work of coming up with this insight, make sure you present it with a demonstration of your belief in the idea. (If the first three minutes of your presentation is a verbal backpedaling exercise, no one else will have any confidence in it either.) Is it perfect? Few things are. Stand up and give your idea its best chance for success by presenting it with conviction.

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: