Mr. Walter "Big Thunder" Smith
Thundering Success Seminars Unlimited
205 E. Third Ave.,
Denver, CO 80210
Thanks for the look at your preliminary plans for the new seminar series for 2002. I am flattered and humbled that you would solicit my opinion.
The "confidential analysis" in which you explain the rationale for the seminars seems to me beyond argument. As you say, the Information Age finds the business world awash in functional illiterates who once might have made capable assembly-line workers but now find themselves with jobs in marketing and public relations. I am chilled by your observation that the college degrees presumed to prepare them for such work were awarded by "a generation of public educators who, themselves, could not write a coherent declarative sentence or do simple sums."
These unfortunates are hopelessly over their heads in jobs that require them to read, write and draw logical conclusions, and no doubt you're correct about the growing hunger to gather in hotel meeting rooms where they will be "praised to the skies for learning rudimentary things that they can actually do."
I confess that if you hadn't supplied the background analysis, the proposed three-hour seminar on shoe-tying would have struck me as improbable. But I cannot argue with your contention that it's only an incremental step removed from much of the instruction already peddled under headings such as time management, teamwork and coping with change. It still seems daring, but then you always were one to swing for the bleachers, Walt. I say give it a shot.
I find no flaws in the format. Where on earth did you dig up those wonderfully alarming statistics on annual injuries attributed to loose shoelaces? They'll set the stage nicely for the introductory remarks in which you draw the parallel to the "mishaps and pratfalls that can threaten your career and undermine your pursuit of thundering success."
I like the draft scripts for the video vignettes, especially the one where "Tom" is undone by a flapping lace and takes a header into the water pitcher during his "big presentation" to the management committee. Found myself nodding in agreement with your margin note about the superstitious awe with which the target audience regards the concept of a big presentation to management. You're right, Walt; this one will scare them worse than the revolving-head scene in "The Exorcist."
Hey, maybe you could have Tom cut his head on the glass. Show them a little blood. Make doubly sure you've established a proper learning atmosphere for the hands-on practice that follows the videos.
I'm afraid I can't be as encouraging about the half-day workshop called "The Autonomic Team Performer." It's certainly true, as you argue in the synopsis, that no high-impact team can function properly unless the players continue to breathe as they go about their tasks. The bulleted list of consequences for failing to do so appears to cover all of the important bases: lungs stop pumping, heart stops beating, unconsciousness, etc. And once again, you're right that it isn't far removed from the insights on sale in many existing training programs: procrastination is bad, cooperation is good, people have "differences," and so on.
But really, Walt, four hours of "don't forget to breathe?" I just don't think they're ready for it yet, not even with the Powerpoint slides and the scientific-sounding references to the autonomic nervous system. Maybe by 2004. Put this one on the shelf for a year or two, that's my advice.
Walt, it's a real joy to get a glimpse of a great marketing mind at work. Keep on thundering!
Your friend and admirer, Jack.