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  • Writer's pictureTraci Browne

Hang In There, Baby

Octopus hanging in window

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

I recently took a short vacation in the Finger Lakes region in New York. I rented a little cabin in the woods on a 50-acre property. Aside from an abundance of space for my pups to run, two other key selling features of this cabin were poor cell service and no wifi. Sometimes you need to unplug.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the cabin door and stepped inside was the ten or so dead animals (taxidermic) hanging from the walls, ceiling, and rafters. Luckily my hound didn't notice them until the last night we were there, or all hell would have broken loose.

The second thing I noticed, and perhaps more unsettling, were the abundance of quaint platitudes hanging just about everywhere there wasn't a dead animal. Sayings like, "Welcome. Love, laughter, friendship, family, and friends gather here. Enter with a happy heart," and "Love grows best in little houses," and "It's the small moments that make life a big adventure," and even the briefest of platitudes, "Believe," "Trust," and "Love."

I don't know why they need all these quaint little pictures. All you need is a "hang in there" cat poster and a few thumbtacks. An entire generation was raised on only that one thought. It was all we needed.

This cabin filled with platitudes, all saying basically the same thing, reminded me of a lot of content that organizations are producing. Google "manufacturing labor shortage," and you'll see what I mean. There are about 20 billion hits (far more than the number of workers the industry needs), and they all say the same thing. It's either robots are the answer, or we need to make manufacturing appealing to the younger generation, and sometimes it's both.

Most concentrate on the problem, with some vague concept of a solution tacked on at the end. Solutions journalism is gaining in popularity in the mainstream media. I think businesses could benefit from following the principles as well.

Manufacturing leaders don't just want to read a 30,000-foot view of what they should be doing to solve any myriad of problems they are facing. They want boots on the ground advice. They don't want to read a thousand articles from robotics manufacturers, all telling them the benefits of adding robots to their processes.

They want to know how they should approach their employees with this idea. How do they win them over? How do they assure their valued employees they are not on the way out the door? Is that even true? How do they put together a retraining program? What skills do they need to look for in an employee to determine if they are a good fit for retraining? Not just technical skills, but soft-skills as well. How do they write the job description for new hires they will need to attract?

All the productivity benefits and improvements in quality won't mean a thing if a business owner is being greeted in their parking lot by an angry mob. How are they going to get products made and shipped if employees worried about their future decide to walk off the job?

A robotics company that can supply the HR department checklists, training materials, discussion guides, and job descriptions will become a valued partner, not merely a vendor.

When you're about to sit down and write a piece of content or hire someone to write it for you, you need first to ask yourself, "has this been written already?" If the answer is "no"—go for it. If the answer is "yes," then ask:

1. Do I have a different take or position on what's already been written?

2. Can I provide context that is missing in what's already been written?

3. Is what has been written mostly fluff, whereas I can give the reader something of substance?

4. Can I provide tools that will help the reader be successful in their journey?

5. Can I suggest the next steps the reader should take to solve the problem being addressed?

6. Can I bring it down from the 30,000-foot view and present a "boots on the ground" solution?

If the answer to those six questions is no, then move on. Your reader already has that poster hanging in their room, and it's more than enough.

If your answer is yes, then go ahead a start writing.

Speaking of posters, here's a little something you can hang on your wall as a reminder. Sorry, it's not the tabby in a tree.

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