The Storm – and a lesson in Communication

I had the misfortune of being in the heart of the storm that raged across New York and the whole of the North-East USA. By 8pm on the Sunday night, my lights flickered, dimmed and then went out. Out went wi-fi, cellphone service, hot water….everything.

The destruction was unthinkable and we have all seen the proof of what a “Frankenstorm” can do.

Once the storm had passed, in Manhattan, It became a tale of two cities. Pretty much everyone North of 26th street had power, cafes and stores started to re-open and life began to return to what looked like…‘normal’.

South of 26th Street and it was a very different story., no lights, no phones. Fewer people walking on the streets and an eeriness that was very sobering in these high-tech times.

It was truly the dark zone and from those powerless streets you could stare north, up the empty Avenues and see the twinkling lights of Midtown. People started to migrate towards the power and were relieved at the generosity of store and restaurant owners who offered up power strips for charging phones directly outside and inside their premises.

While carrying some essentials for my apartment to a hotel in “The Light Zone”, I met some employees from Con Edison – the power supply company for that part of Manhattan. I wandered up to them and said, “Come on, be honest, how big a problem is this?”

One of the more senior guys looked at me and replied, “Put it this way, imagine taking your television … dipping it fully into the ocean for about an hour then lifting it out, plugging it in and expecting it to work.”

I knew the problem was serious but until the perfect analogy was used, I just couldn’t picture the challenge that these fine people have in front of them.

It got me thinking. At every level of business, especially in the more complex industries like IT and finance, we all have times where we need to explain a concept or an idea and have people understand very quickly. I would like to think that we can all take a page out of the very busy book of Con Edison. Spend some time thinking of your most complex ideas and then consider their “Analogy-equivalents” in the real world.

Create the imagery and implant the idea AND the understanding.

I will not complain now as I wait for power to be restored. The TV in the ocean is what I picture now … as those hard working folk work day and night to repair just one element of a truly destructive event.


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