Saturday, September 26, 2009


Signals provide us with a clue of what is to come. A signal is a transmission used to relay information or instructions. Over the past twenty years or so, due to my background in design, I have been extremely tuned in to the visual signals that exist and what impact they play specifically in the area of market positioning. Many clients I have worked with over the years have had the right stuff, but lacked the ability to provide the appropriate signal to the market. Companies that had great ideas, great products, people and expertise—provided signals that were contrasting their exceptional capabilities. It happens. It happens all the time in fact. What starts out as a perception problem often blossoms into full dysfunction.

Companies will surge and grow regardless of the poor signals they send. Besides, most of these companies and organizations aren't communication companies, they sell widgets, and build bridges—signals and communications aren't important—just widgets and bridges...or whatever it is they hock for a buck. But what happens is they grow into big companies and their small signal / perception issue becomes a gargantuan communication problem. Now we don't have 33 people sending the wrong signals, we have 33,000 people degrading a brand. You can see where this could get a little messy (and expensive).

Let's look at a turn signal (on a car) for an example. You might take it for granted but consistency, frequency, and standardization have really helped this simple little signal communicate with clarity and connect with people at the highest level. Misunderstanding about this minuscule little light could have grave consequences. Just think if some people tapped the brake 3 times for left and 2 times for right. Or, what if others honked their horn, or waved a hand to indicate or signal which direction they were turning. With over 250 million automobiles on the road in the U.S. it would be devastating not to have our signals jive up with our actions.

What signals are you sending? What signals do we send as parents? What signals do we send to our spouse? What signals do we send as a church? What signals do we send as a business. What signals do we send as a state—or as a nation? Are we sending the right signals?

I plan to write a series on this topic, and hope that these posts will inspire you to stop, refocus, and look at things from a new perspective. Why does it matter? —Stay tuned.


CarolinaGirl said...'s that for a signal?

Steve Blackwell said...

I don't know if I am inspired by insomnia or plagued with attention deficit problems, but nonetheless I am glad I didn't spew too many thoughts regarding "the series" (or lack of series) on signals. One thing that I believe always needs to be considered prior to any strategy or prescription is, context. In my day to day travels I notice things and always try to figure out how I can make them better. This has been a huge problem in my marriage, because every meal, every gesture, every household process, and parenting concept gets scrutinized, changed, or over directed (by me). It is just in me. I think like this all day long within the confines of my profession, and should probably learn to check these attributes at the door when I come home each day.

Anyway, back to signals and context...One of the organizations that I wanted to write about was in the middle of changes, and upon a recent visit they had already made great strides in correcting some of problems that I noticed before. I was more than ready to pass judgment, share unflattering pictures as well as my perspective — only to learn that there was more to the context than I accounted for in my initial review of the situation or scene. Even though bad signals were being sent — there was more to the picture. I am learning that my perspective isn't the only perspective. I mentioned in the blog about hoping to inspire others to think about signals they send. Well, I would like to amend that to include the following: "Lighten up!" "Unless your getting paid to uncover bad signals...look for something good in others instead."

Peace. & Thanks!