Why you should create lines, not dots

dots-vs-lines.png

It takes time for people to see what you can see.

You might have a brilliant idea: something that saves time, money, effort – or have a new approach or product that is going to bring huge benefits to someone else.

But, most people aren’t going to see it your way straight away.

Mark Suster, an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and blogger, introduced a great way of thinking about this. Thanks go to Dimitrios Kourtesis who shared this idea with me.

When you first meet someone, that creates a single data point – both for you and them. Your interaction creates a moment of credibility (Suster talks about performance).

The picture above shows this event (adapted from Suster’s original images).

In subsequent interactions you build up more data points. You learn more about each other, what you do and how do you it and so on.

Over time these interactions create more dots on the graph.

The key question is – are these dots connected or not?

If you have a set of random dots that don’t seem to have a clear relationship between them, people are going to struggle to connect them and understand what you are pitching.

People listening to you need to “connect the dots”, see the storyline that runs between them and helps them make sense of your proposition.

It doesn’t matter if there is a break or a change in the story. For example, in the second chart, you might have a particular set of dots connected by a line – and then something changes causing you to go in a different direction and you then have a new set of dots connected by a line.

The connection – the storyline – is what people buy into. It’s what allows them to see the pattern in what you are doing and start to trust that you have a plan and a destination in mind rather than just doing random activity based on what’s latest and loudest.

Suster recommends that you try and increase the number of data points with short, relevant updates when possible. Start well before you need something, and by the time you go for the “ask”, the people you are talking to can see the pattern in what you are doing and that reduces their perception of risk and increases their willingness to invest in you and your idea.

Reja Khadjavi of Shoelace has a good post on how regular, consistent updates to their investors helps them strengthen relationships and provides examples of what they actually send out.

It might seem basic, but sometimes we can get lost in the detail of what we do and forget that something that seems simple and obvious to us can be complex and opaque to someone else.

The way to get someone else to see what you see is to help them see the lines that connect what you do.

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