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A Tale of Hair and Minions

I have a 3 ½-year-old daughter with long hair. Every morning, we have the same routine, where she tells me how to do her hair, and I try to comply. Wishes wary, with sometimes more structural instructions such as „I want it on one side, I want the hair braided or I want a ponytail“. Sometimes there are more complicated design-request („I want my hair like Ariel, like Elsa ... “). The latter ones, as you can imagine, are slightly more tricky to achieve. But I am happy to say that I can see a definitive improvement in my hair modeling and the age of the internet, as well as mobile devices, gives me a myriad of opportunities to watch instructional videos and practice there and then (a wonderful example of a retrieval-learning methodology btw).

However, this morning, my little one’s request was: „I want my hair like the Minions“. I paused, brush in hand, trying to process what I had just heard. „The Minions?“, I asked, hoping against hope that I had misheard her request due to early morning haziness and parenting-induced sleep deprivation combined with not enough coffee yet. „Yes, Minions“ my daughter declared to my utter despair. For those of you that do not know Minions: they are these yellow kind of egg-shaped creatures that are, well, mostly bald. Not much hair. And even as in some episodes they wear wigs nothing comes to mind when I try to process my daughter’s hair style request. I come up completely blank. Seconds go by. If you know my daughter, and likely because I am her mother, her temper is a little short, and her patience is basically non-existing. I must start work soon or face her displeasure.

In desperation and panic, I grasp at straws, or hope, remembering (thank you brain!) that there are 3 little girls in some of those movies featuring Minions. Trying to resolve the impasse quickly I switch to what decades of coaching and advisory have taught me: fake-choice questions. If you have never heard of it try it, is cool! Instead of asking „when do you want to do exercise?“ you ask „do you want to do exercise now or later?“. The way I phrased this second question means, first, there is no choice of doing exercise or not (I removed your choice there, on purpose, as I want you to do exercise), but as you still think you can choose something, because I am offering you two times to pick from, it tricks your brain into thinking you had a choice when you technically did not. Hence: fake choice. Works every time. I thought. So I say: „Like which one of the little girls in the Minions Movies?“. With a slightly annoyed undertone, my daughter replies „not like the girls. I want the hair like a Minion“.

And suddenly I am forcefully reminded of some of my client conversations. Clients requesting learning experience design, or digital transformation advisory services. They come to you with the Minion-hair equivalent of a request. Such as „we need to transform our client service interface within 6 months“ or „our target audience of 450 front line production engineers needs to get the new production protocols dispatched to all production sites. It has to be interactive but production sites do not have training rooms, employees do not have mobile devices, and we do not have an LMS nor do we want one“. I could go on all day with other examples. And same as with my daughter, I sometimes try and fail to rephrase the client’s request into something that is remotely feasible. And more often than not I get the request right back, with no, we want our Minion-Hair request and your competitor said they can build it (yeah, sure).

So what is the best choice here? Try to explain to my daughter, or the client, that Minions, for the most, do not have hair and that thus, unfortunately, my intellectual and design capabilities are not sufficient to fulfill that specific request, or do I embrace the absurd and go with a different line of thinking. If Minions DID have hair, what would they look like? And then create whatever comes to my mind and hope for the best.

With my clients, I have the tendency to go for option A. I tell them Minion-Hair is not a request I can work with, good luck with my competitor. But, I thought, here is my opportunity to try option B. So I went for it. And arranged her hair. Bracing myself for her feedback. She looked in the mirror and said: „yay, I am a Minion“. Wow. I still could not really see it, but somehow she could. And that was enough. Maybe sometimes I overthink stuff. I guess, as long as it makes them happy then it does not matter if I can see it. They can.

And I definitively stepped out of my comfort zone and learned to work into the unknown. I can’t wait for my next Minion-Hair client request!

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