My business card says I'm a content designer + intelligent stranger. 

Content Design involves helping clients figure out:

A) what they want to do with what they have, and 

B) how to deliver that in words, pictures, products, services + experiences.

The deliverables of content design are

  • digital movies — from 10 seconds to feature-length
  • books, web content, brochures, ad copy — you name it
  • simple websites, when doing it myself seems faster, easier, less expensive, or for some other reason expedient for my client
  • events, small + large — often joining an event team to design and/or deliver one piece of a bigger puzzle

The work of an Intelligent Stranger is somewhat difficult to describe, but I’ll take a shot.

Intelligent strangers enter space that’s controlled by someone else. They see + hear, then try to make sense of things as outsiders. As fresh eyes + ears, intelligent strangers notice when the emperor has no clothes and when the pauper is actually a prince. If they see something, they say something (both affirmation and critique; even at the risk of being run out town).


Being a “professional" intelligent stranger is partly craft — at least in my case, developed over decades collaborating with people who lead businesses and 501(c)(3)s.


The skills employed by a “professional” intelligent stranger are practices like

  • intentional openness

  • sustained attentiveness

  • careful, almost aggressive, listening

  • the nerve to ask unaskable questions (as generously as possible)

  • a capacity for pattern recognition

  • the willingness to look foolish…to say, “I’m sorry, I still don’t get it; I’m sure it’s me; please explain it one more time."

The part of all this that’s neither craft nor skill is, I think, having a brain operating system — or perhaps preserving the part of the brain’s operation — that sees + hears the world in peculiar ways. Over time, most of us become aware that this capacity may be a liability before it's turned into an asset. 

Fun fact #1: About 20 years ago, I devised an interactive experience — I call it Cubing, for reasons that have to do with helping people think in three dimensions. Cubing streamlines, or at least concentrates, my intelligent stranger work.


I’ve led Cubing intensives with sole proprietors, small business partners, management teams, marketing units, + project, operations, design + event teams.


Fun fact #2: I think I laugh with clients more in a couple of days of Cubing, than just about any other time. Effective + Fun = Excellent.

 

So, wrapping it up: As an intelligent stranger, I listen to what clients say + watch what they do. I ask questions + noodle on what I see and hear until I recognize patterns that — I’m told — aren’t always obvious. From there, I lead  a Cubing intensive — sometimes that's where we begin — to help them frame solutions + opportunities going forward. [1]

In most cases, that’s where the engagement ends. There’s a very good chance we’ll be friends going forward, but in most instances, I don’t sign on as a consultant because that’s not what intelligent strangers usually do (+ because uncovering the need for a general consultant is more or less the opposite of what Cubing accomplishes). Clients may realize the need an HR consultant, or an IT consultant, or a relocation consultant … but probably not someone like me. Unless, of course, they need a content designer — in which case I may be just who they're looking for. Or not…I hate to make assumptions.