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Artist Demonstrates How Limits Spur Creativity

Challenges are obstacles that often require creativity and new thinking to overcome, but self-limiting beliefs are true barriers to personal and professional progress, according to artist and speaker Phil Hansen.

In his keynote address, Hansen shared lessons he learned when a physical limitation temporarily caused him to give up his art.

Hansen previously created pointillism, the art form that uses dots to draw recognizable imagery from a distance. Because it requires precision, Hansen said he held his .005 mm pen so tightly that it caused nerve damage. His hand started to tremble, and those precise points began to resemble tadpoles. He could no longer make the art he loved.

“Spending all my life creating dots, I couldn’t consider doing art any other way.”

He initially gave up art completely. It wasn’t until after he saw a doctor who confirmed his condition was permanent and who encouraged him to “embrace the shake” that Hansen began to consider what that might look like. (more…)

From Good to Great in Proposal Management

Good proposal managers manage. Great proposal managers lead.

That’s the perspective of two consultants speaking at the APMP Proposal-Con conference in New Orleans

“A manager implements what they’re told to do, using the tools at hand,” said Lisa Pafe, a consultant with Lohfeld Consulting. “A leader is charged more with charting a new vision.”

Great proposal managers who lead are proactive in the RFP process, Pafe said. This requires both engaging the capture team early and applying how your organization or solution exceeds the competition.

Effective proposal managers are not simply process drivers. … They collaborate early with the capture manager and solutions team,” she said. “Too often we’re handed a stinking pile of you know what because we were not involved in the process.”

Liz Scarlatos, also of Lohfeld, added that engaged proposal managers often have similar characteristics as client-facing sales staff, including “a burning curiosity and involvement in what your company is offering.” They also ask questions about the client to understand what they value and what will motivate their decision making.

7 Seismic Shifts (more…)

Four Steps to Improve Readability

(Editor’s note: This is a repeat of an online conference Ms. Enslen led for APMP in August.)

Improving readability isn’t rocket science but does require vigilance, says Samantha Enslen, President of Dragonfly Editorial.

“If you get one thing out of this conference, it’s take really long sentences and unpack them into separate parts,” said Enslen, whose editorial agency helps organizations with content and clarity. “Really, if you want to leave right now, you can go.”

Readability typically is measured with ratings created by Rudolph Fleish and Peter Kincaid. The ratings were established in the 1970s when the U.S. Navy wanted to determine the accessibility of their technical manuals to teenage seamen. Two key rating systems exist. Fleisch alone create one that rates text from from 0 (college graduate) to 100 (5th grade). Together, Fleish and Kincade created a second that assigns a grade-level rating to text. Both ratings equations are based on the length of words and the length of sentences. (more…)

A Simple Approach to Post-Proposal Debriefs

Internal post-proposal team debriefs can be boiled down to four questions, according to Neal Levene, director of proposal for Sentel Corptoration.

Too many organizations debrief their internal proposal contributors by either asking the wrong questions or asking too many questions, Levene told a workshop audience. “Over-complication leads to confusion. And confusion leads to inaction.”

Asking too many questions will “constrain feedback to set areas that might or might not be problematic,” he added.

Levene said four simple questions can be used for practically any process, from team improvement to taking with your kids.

“I think this is a very, very good way to get good feedback on just about anything,” he said. “It’s very open ended and allows people to give the feedback that’s on their minds without directing them in a specific direction. … And it keeps it generally positive.”


15 Ways to Ruin Your Writing

Jack and Jill can do more than climb hills and fetch water. They can teach 15 ways to mess up your writing, according to Brad Douglas.

Douglas, president and CEO of Shipley Associates used the well-known nursery rhyme to list “15 Ways to Ruin Your Writing:”

  1. Use weak verbs. Jack and Jill went up the hill to get a pail of water.
  2. Use unfamiliar words. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a fetch a ewer of water.
  3. Put introductory phrases at the beginning to push the subject back. To fetch a pail of water, Jack and Jill climbed the hill.
  4. Put the action at the end of the sentence. Jack and Jill, to fetch a pail of water, climbed up the hill.
  5. Keep modifiers as far as possible from the words they modify. Jack and Jill climbed to fetch a pail of water up the hill.
  6. Use the passive voice. The hill was climbed by Jack and Jill so that a pail of water could be fetched.
  7. Put the doer at the end of the sentence. To fetch a pail of water, the hill was climbed by Jack and Jill.
  8. Introduce false subjects. It was Jack and Jill that climbed up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
  9. Pile on the gobbledygook. Jack and Jill ascended the acclivity to retrieve a vessel of Adam’s ale.
  10. Turn verbs into nouns. Jack and Jill did the hill climb for the purpose of water retrieval.
  11. Use unnecessary technical jargon. Jack and Jill traversed the gradient to fetch an alembic vessel of H2O.
  12. Add wordy phrases (fluff). Jack, in the company of Jill, climbed their way up the hill for the purpose of fetching water in the approximate amount of a pail’s full.
  13. Use multiple redundant words. Both Jack and Jill climbed all the way up to the top of the hill summit to fetch a pail filled to its capacity with water.
  14. Throw in clichés indiscriminately. Jack and Jill, who need no introduction, climbed up the hill by leaps and bounds to fetch through their good offices a pail of water by hook or by crook.
  15. String lots of nouns together to form the subject. Jack and Jill water retrieval hill ascent was achieved.