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, and try to make sense of things as outsiders. As fresh eyes + ears, intelligent strangers notice when the emperor has no clothes — or when the pauper is actually a prince — and they say something (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, that streamlines — or at least concentrates — the 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 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 to everybody. From there, I do what I can to help them frame solutions + opportunities going forward.
In most cases, that’s where the engagement ends. There’s a good chance we’ll be friends for life, 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. You may realize you need an HR consultant, or a IT consultant, but probably not someone like me. Unless, of course, you need a content designer — in which case I may be just who you're looking for. Or not…I hate to make assumptions.