Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Power of 2 in Speech Writing

I read a recent review in the Wall Street Journal about a new book - Sounding the Trumpet. The book uncovers the actual role of presidential speech writers in inaugural speeches. It turns out that JFK's famous speech was mostly penned by Theodore Sorenson. Kennedy himself likely only contributed 9 of the 51 sentences of the speech. Yet, JFK made a huge show of actually having written the speech when being interviewed by a journalist on Air Force One.

This highlights a couple of really important issues. First, it's yet another example where the Power of 2 plays a vital role in creating great outcomes. Indeed, it was probably a perfect pairing as Sorenson's Maven created the text, while Kennedy delivered it with great Evangelist flair. And while we cannot go back and see what happened, it's likely there were a number of exchanges back and forth between the president and his speech writer to get it right.

The second issue is perhaps more important and subtle. We live in a culture which likes to celebrate the success of the individual. Whether it's in the area of inventions, (Thomas Edison - light bulb; Art Fry - Post It Note, with little mention of the other vital collaborators), entrepreneurship (Steve Jobs or Bill Gates with little mention of Wozniak or Allen) or any other activities, we love to simplify the message and discuss one person. Evangelists might be partially to blame in their desire to hog the limelight! But this mythology does a great disservice to those who read the stories and don't realize the importance of dance partners. A soloist mental model will likely lead to failure. It's fascinating that JFK felt the need to obfuscate the fact that he was not the true author of the speech. In a culture which celebrates the Power of 2, he might have behaved differently.

Mavens, Relaters and Evangelists must all realize the importance of bringing each other into our games. The Power of 2 (or more) will create results far beyond our wildest expectations.

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