We are often asked about our process for creating blog content. It's not so much a process, though I'm sure we could flow-chart it if you wanted, but more of an opportunity to reflect on an idea and use our creativity to share what we know or think with you, the reader.
One of my past career stops was with the Center for Quality of Management, an international consortium of companies who jointly learned and applied quality improvement and leadership principals. The primary "guru" who led us through that process was Shoji Shiba, a Japanese professor who was an expert in quality. Professor Shiba also wrote a book called "Breakthrough Management: Principles, Skills, and Patterns of Transformational Leadership", of which I had the privilege of attending his workshops during the early development of the concepts in the book.
So what does this have to do with blogging?? Am I about to lead you through a transformation? In a word, "Nope"! But the concepts can be applied to many things, including blog writing. Dr. Shiba highlights one method known as "Visual Thinking Strategy" which uses art to teach communication skills. It was borrowed from an organization called Visual Thinking Strategies who developed it as part of museum education for young people. Shoji applied it to business, and here's how I suggest you can apply it to inbound content creation like blogs, articles or white papers.
There are 5 "Points of View" (see below) used to look at an image in order to see deeper meaning in the picture. For online content, choose a topic or thought that you want to write about and make that your "image" (you have a picture in your head when you think that thought).
Next, take each of the following points of view to create unique ideas about your topic:
- Observe the periphery - There are common concepts associated with your topic that most people already know, but if you look at the edges of that idea, you see where it might connect to something that many people might not realize. For example, a dentist was writing about how to floss, but when we looked at the periphery, there's an important link to heart health and flossing, resulting in a much more interesting topic that provides more motivation to floss.
- Discern what's missing - Dr. Shiba has a great example from IBM's Louis Gerstner about Mr. Gerstner's observations from his first day visiting with the IBM management team: "There was no computer in the CEO's office." Sometimes when you are so close to a situation, it's difficult to see that something needs to be added to the picture. For your content, a good question to ask is "What assumptions am I making about the reader?"
- Look for shadows - When thinking about a topic about which you are writing, think of the shadows as "residual" or "indirect" concepts that come out of your content target but are difficult to see if you don't know where to look. It might come in the form of useful data that can help drive your main point home, or even looking at what gets used most in your inventory or office. Usage leaves traces of information that may not be easily seen but tells a powerful story.
- Look for symbols - Sometimes a symbol for you topic will come easily to mind or you may have your own personal one. Either way, a symbol is something memorable that will help others understand what you are writing about. Another way to identify and use symbols is adding a picture to your blog post that may help others see and feel what you mean.
- Make comparisons - In the art world, if you have two similar paintings side by side, such as Renoir's Dance in the City and Dance in the Country, you can run through a comparison of each of previous 4 tips, looking at the differences using each frame of reference. When writing your content, you may want to highlight what a "bad" situation looks like versus a "good" one. Or you might try a point-counterpoint approach using two different blog writers.
As more and more people blog, you'll have to be able to write something that stands out. These 5 tips have helped me in many different situations throughout my life, and blog writing is the latest area of application where I've had success creating unique ideas (self-bias duly noted!).