Why not start with the punch line?

In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sang,
‘Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C
When you sing you begin with do-re-mi’

But does that always make sense in our frenzied digital world? We are all pushed for time, and trying to pack so much into one mega-busy day after another. Maybe it would be sensible to start with the punch line.

Have we got the time and patience to wade through all the intermediate stages? We watch Match of the Day or record the game, and fast forward through to the last ten minutes. We record soaps on Sky Plus, skip the early stages and the ads, and zip through to the denouement.

At school I instinctively liked history and geography. If the conflict was called the Hundred Years War, you knew when it ended, and you could find out what happened, and why. Papua New Guinea may have mountains and valleys that are still unexplored, but we know exactly where the territory is, its capital, population, and so forth. No big mysteries. Finite subjects have that attraction.

When you think about it, we are brought up very iteratively. Every lesson and course at school, every book, every TV programme, every movie, every play, every set of instructions, every recipe, every game of football starts at the beginning and proceeds steadily through to the final act, the last page and ‘The End’.

Spending so much time turning meetings into Motes these days, I am very conscious of how old hat it is to invite 15 people to a 90 minute meeting when none of them know what the outcome is going to be. Why not plan the session and at least give them a hint of what you want to happen? Democracy is one thing and free speech is another. But time is money, and unexpected outcomes are the stuff of Poirot and Midsomer Murders, not the impatient business world.

I can completely understand why Sudoku and crossword addicts enjoy the challenge of solving a puzzle. When we have time for relaxation, the same is true of crime novels and movies. I am sure we could find a psychologist to explain that we have an inner need for ‘recreational ordering’.

And as for spoiling the joke by giving away the punch line, TV comedy has done pretty well out of repeating catch phrases week after week.

When it comes to meetings, doesn’t it make sense for the organiser(s) to plan the desired outcome, share that with the participants, and collaboratively work through the ‘whys’, ‘hows’ and ‘what do we do next’?

We can only handle so much suspense!

 

This is David’s Marketing Society blog from January 2015.