Monday, November 23, 2015

An idea presentation template based on a 2 minute pitch by The Wand Company founders

A lot of people talk about “Elevator pitch”. But can I really present my idea in 2 minutes? If so, how? Is there a template we can use for such a pitch? In this article I would like to present a template with the help of a 2 minute pitch given by Richard and Chris, The Wand Company founders to investors in the TV show Dragons Den. This template is an extension of an earlier template based on Steve Jobs’ iPod launch speech in 2001.

The pitch by Richard and Chris has all the three elements from the iPod-speech-template - viz. Why-What-How - Why magic market? What is real magic wand? How does it work? However, the pitch has two unique characteristics. One, it gets over in less than 2 minutes (1 minute and 40 seconds). And two, the presentation includes a fourth element – the Ask viz. How much investment do we need from you? Both, the timing and the ask, I feel, are very important aspects of an idea pitch. Here is how it looks.

Let’s briefly look at the four elements:

1.      Why magical products? This has two parts – First, why magic market? How big is it? Etc. They say, “Magic market, fantasy market is huge - Hundreds of millions of people spending billions of pounds each year.” The second part is: Why should we play in this market? They say, “We thought with our combined experience of over forty years of design, development, electronics development we will make some really magical products.” This part took 35 seconds.

2.      What is the product? This is the shortest of the four elements and takes only 15 seconds. They say, “Our first product is a real magic wand. And this is it (shows the wand). It looks pretty much as you expect for a wizard’s wand. And the real magic wand should actually do something. And so with this wand, I can…” And the demo starts.

3.      How does it work? (demo) This part is the longest – 35 seconds – where they demo the product. How it works on a music player, a TV and on a light.

4.      How much investment do we need? In this part they mention when they started the company, how many units have been sold and with the help of the investors how much revenue they can achieve in three years. The exact amount of investment they are looking for is something they mention upfront at the beginning of the presentation itself. Together this part might be around 20 seconds.

Which parts are tricky in this?  First, I think idea presenters need to watch out for the balance between “What” and “How”. They tend to spend more time explaining what the product is about instead of product doing the talking through a demo. Second, idea presenters don’t come prepared with “the Ask” – an important aspect of the last element “How much”.

If you plan a longer presentation, you can include your answer to the first question – What technology does it use? in the “What” part (part-2). This is what Steve Jobs does in the iPod launch speech.
Hope you find it useful.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Metaphors from "Thought as a system"

I am a fan of David Bohm’s book “Thought as a system” and I am also convinced of the power of metaphors in communicating abstract ideas. In this presentation I have tried to bring the metaphors from the book “Thought as a system” to the foreground in explaining the key concepts.

Concepts like consciousness, God, incoherence are highly abstract. Could metaphors help in understanding them? Personally, I have found them useful. Perhaps you may find them useful too. Happy to hear from you.

If you find this presentation useful, you may also like a related presentation: “The Matrix as a system vs Thought as a system” which compares “Thought as a system” to the sci-fi movie “The Matrix”

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Learning mindfulness through “Penn and Teller: Fool us” magic show

I was introduced to the popular magic show “Penn and Teller: Fool us” by our son Kabir. In this TV show, the young and the old magicians perform their best tricks in Las Vegas and try to fool the mighty magic duo Penn and Teller. In case you have not seen already, I urge you to check out the video clip above in which Shawn Farquhar, a world champion in card magic, fools Penn and Teller. In this article, I would like to explore how this magic show can help us understand a seemingly unrelated area – mindfulness.

Let’s bucket the audience of this show (including those watching it on TV) into three categories. First, “This-is-real” category: These guys – perhaps mostly kids – might confuse the magic act as if it were happening for real. If a man gets cut into two, they might get frightened. My wife remembers carrying Kabir out of the theatre while watching Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone because he started crying. My parents tell similar stories about me. That’s This-is-real category.

Second, “Fooled-but-aware” category: These guys are enjoying the show and they have no clue how they are getting fooled. However, they carry awareness that they are getting fooled while the drama is unfolding. For example, they don’t cry when Penn acts as though a knife has entered his chest.

Third, “Not-fooled” category: Penn and Teller and many other magicians around the world also enjoy the drama but most of the time they know exactly when the sleight of hand is doing the trick. If they get fooled, as in this case of Shawn Farquhar, they are more aware what they don’t know. Just to summarize, the three categories are: This-is-real, Fooled-but-aware and Not-fooled.

Now let’s imagine another magic show called “Perception and Thought: Fool us” which is run by two fictional characters called Perception and Thought (P&T). Between the two Thought is the real magician. Perception is more of an orator and showman. Thought is working mostly behind the scene. Sometimes he turns a rope into a snake and adds a scary music in the background. Sometimes he turns a person from another religious community into an enemy and plays villain-is-coming type jingle. While working backstage Thought has access to a vast amount of memory most of which nobody else can see. There are times when Thought is not doing much though and Perception is just showing things as they are – the table, the chair, the mountain, the trees etc. I guess you get the idea.

Now most of us when we are not mindful we belong to the first category - This-is-real. We treat the drama put up by the duo Perception and Thought (P&T) as real. For example, when the boss shouts, we get upset, when kids throw tantrums we get irritated, when we read about war, corruption and rape we get angry-sad etc. We follow what Daniel Kahneman calls WYSIATI rule – What You See Is All There Is.

When we are mindful, we are more like the Fooled-but-aware category. When boss looks angry or upset, we consider the possibility that it could be just our imagination – as Thought might have fooled us. Or when boss shouts at us, we consider the possibility that he might have had a bad day and not because he is a bad person or because I am incompetent. Since a mindful person carries awareness that Thought may be fooling him, he doesn’t hold onto an opinion too strongly. He carries an openness to change the opinion if such evidence shows up.

A mindfulness Master is more like Penn and Teller. He is also entertained by the show like others but differs from the first two categories in following ways. First, he is extremely alert while watching the show. Second, he knows exactly when Thought is playing the tricks most of the time. Third, he carries deep appreciation and marvel at what is possible in the drama of life. And fourth, he is willing to share his knowledge of the Thought-tricks with those interested.

Now, how can we use this metaphor for learning mindfulness? First, we can learn from Fooled-but-aware category of audience. As most of our attention is consumed by the drama, perhaps we can keep some attention for the awareness that  Thought may be fooling us. When it comes to defending a belief, perhaps we can consider the fact that part of the belief may be Thought created. That may help us keep the door a little open while listening to others.

Second, like how magicians are learning from Penn and Teller, we can learn from spiritual masters as they explain the places where Thought plays the tricks. For example, in this skype call, when Nick asks Eckhart Tolle, “If I don’t worry about things, how will I pay my bills?” Eckhart suggests him that the question itself might contain an error. That means Thought has played some trick even before you create the question, perhaps introduced an incorrect assumption of necessity i.e. worry is absolutely necessary. The challenge here is to figure out who is an authentic spiritual master and who is not. And wisdom of crowd is not always trustworthy.

Third, you can use the technique that magicians are using in today’s YouTube-world to learn. In the video clip above, Penn points out that it wasn’t difficult for them to spot the deck-switch. Well, we can do the same by running the video in slow motion and see when the card deck gets switched. For example, replay the video between 2:35 and 2:40 and see how Shawn might have brought out a brand new deck from the pocket. Of course, Penn admits they have no clue how Shawn got Penn’s card in the new deck.

Similarly, as David Bohm points out in “Thought as a system”, we can do the same by pressing the button when we are relatively undisturbed i.e. bringing out the thought ourselves that creates negative emotions in us. For example, we can think about boss while he is not in front of us and watch the chain reaction in our body-mind. Watching the Perception & Thought show while a negative emotion is arising is like watching Shawn between 2:35 and 2:40. We can press the button again and again and see how the whole process functions especially in slow motion.

In short, we can use “Penn and Teller: Fool us” metaphor to learn mindfulness by being Fooled-but-aware, by learning thought-tricks from spiritual masters and by pressing the button that springs negative emotions and watching the show in slow motion.

Related articles: