The world of art, like Pierre Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, are full of subtle nuances
We’ve all been there before.
You spend weeks working hard on a purportedly kick-ass strategy or a revolutionary new product launch.
According to your game plan, your new initiative would change the world. Your competitors would be scuttled. Your customers would come hunting for your product and service in droves.
The stars were all aligned. Its showtime, baby!
Unfortunately, things start to unravel at the moment of revelation. Your bosses laugh at how unpolished your project was, your colleagues sniggered at that visual eye sore, while your target market hardly gave a whimper the day your world conquering campaign was unveiled.
Why does an otherwise perfect plan fall flat on its face?
The answer? You haven’t done enough nuancing to cover the blemishes.
According to the Free Dictionary, nuancing takes two forms, both of which are relevant:
“1. A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone; a gradation.
2. Expression or appreciation of subtle shades of meaning, feeling, or tone”
In the world of art, masterpieces like Pierre Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, are full of subtle nuances. A few light brush strokes, a dab of colour, and voila! Magic happens.
In the corporate world, nuancing is critical to success. It can mean the difference between a client signing on the dotted line, or feeling mortally offended.
That gentle nudge in the right or wrong direction can result in a tipping point of positive or negative feeling towards you and your organisation.
Nuances provide that special “oomph” which a master chef knows will transform a dish from delicious to divine. It is that sprinkling of saffron which transforms a yummy dessert to a taste of heaven – that finely calibrated effort which helps your company’s new product to leapfrog from good to extraordinary.
In practice, almost every endeavour can and should be nuanced. However, let me start with some basic principles:
In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, he wrote that the “…quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”
Similarly, one should choose the best time of the day, week or month to present one’s case to management, pitch a story to the media, or implement a new staff rewards programme.
Timing becomes even more important in a major new project. It influences how we should roll out a strategy – one big bang or many intermediate steps.
The second factor place works hand-in-glove with timing.
Choose the right platform, channel or venue to announce your new service. Pay special attention to how your message is articulated across different channels.
Sometimes, chatting with somebody at the water cooler may work better than doing so at a formal meeting.
A picture paints a thousand words while a video probably conveys 10,000. The challenge, however, lies in the perfect placement of the different elements to achieve the right balance, harmony, contrast, focus, and direction.
Beyond visual principles of good design, nuancing is also important in the choice of music and rhythms to accompany your work. Scents and textures are also important – the feel of velvet and satin connotes luxury while the aromas of freshly baked cookies evokes nostalgia and memories of home.
Subtlety is key in the world of product design. Incorporate the perfect mix of ergonomics, user design and functionality and a new hit is created. Lower your standards too much and you’ll descend down the long road of mediocrity.
Apple is a master in this game. Every new technology product is painstakingly crafted and shaped to ensure that nothing is left to chance. Each feature – from the way the screens are designed to the placement of buttons – are sensibly and sublimely conceived with the user in mind.
Top salespersons are masters in reading their client’s body language. They can anticipate what their next best action should be, moving perfectly in sync with their customers.
Beyond just their actions, our tone of voice and gestures also make a tremendous difference. Actions like a regular snort or persistent tugging of one’s hair could be viewed with a quizzical look. It could also distract the other party from your main message.
In this arena, ladies have a huge advantage over men with their keenly honed abilities to read, understand, and respond to the subtlest cues – from the quiver of one’s lip, shift in the pitch of one’s voice, to the twitch of an eyebrow.
While sticks and stones may break my bones, choosing your words wisely may mean the difference between winning and losing a customer, an account or a boss.
Take some time to understand the other party’s unique cultural environment. Adopt the precise communication style which suits the occasion. Match your linguistic outputs to what your audience prefers to see and to hear.
In the digital world, words become even more important due to the lack of non-verbal cues. The choice of words and the way they are phrased is critical to how they will be received.
Nuancing is both an art and a science. It combines years of finely honed experience with in-depth knowledge to help one to discern the finely filigreed complexities of the corporate landscape.
It is what separates a struggling violinist from a world class virtuoso.
Fortunately, newbies need not feel dismayed so long as they are willing to become apprentices to their seniors.
Spend considerable time and effort talking and learning from folks who have been there and excelled. Learn from your own mistakes as you refine and sharpen your craft. While doing so, tune in to prevailing social norms and cultural traditions in your line.
Over time, you will be able to sculpt that perfect work of art, unveil it to a gasping audience, and create the impact which leaves that immaculately shaped dent in the universe.