The Asset Handler [Step#1 Empathize]

THE MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, IS TO EMPATHIZE WITH BOTH THE ASSET AND THEIR HANDLER TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION METHODS.

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The Asset Handler: A series of articles to explore and improve the methods used for meetings between people striving to be an expert and their mentor.

Articles in The Asset Handler Series:
EmpathizeDefineIdeatePrototype • Test

Let there be no doubt in your mind; a Handler is a trained professional at what they do. There is also no guessing about the goal when it comes to developing a spy, referred to as an Asset.  After watching every spy movie made, I must be a foremost authority on tradecraft techniques?  Not really, but I do have extensive experience with developing and communicating with design teams.  When supporting a team through a project, I have made numerous mistakes over years of practice.  We are not always equipped with the methods that can help the interaction, so let’s talk about it.  One thing I know for sure….

When an expert mentor and someone that wants to grow into that role exchange information, it is damn hard!

1. Who Are The Users?

To use Design Thinking for our project we must start by empathizing with the users, and in this project they are both the Asset and their Handler.

The Handler:

They are an expert and mentor in their industry trade. Among their many aspirations, teaching others to perform the trade ranks highly.  They wish they could take the many years of experience in their mind and implant them in the head of the Asset, but science has not progressed that far.

The Asset:

Aspiring to become an expert and mentor in their industry trade.

2. Speaking a Common Language

To work in the shadows as a Culture Spy and avoid detection, we will need to become fluent in the language.  The Code Book will help prepare you for future missions.

3. “Rusty Nail” Dead Drop (Memory Intelligence)

Codename: “Rusty Nail” Eric Hosier

As a Handler, I have been proudly guiding and reviewing project work as a licensed Professional Engineer for years. My exchange of information occurs after a design review in the form of a live drop, or in person handoff meeting.  After years of watching design teams full of aspiring hope to gain expert status, there is one thing for certain weighing on their minds; a review of one’s work is always a test.  And just like most testing situations, I have witnessed it all, where emotions range from high anxiety to tears.  For me, the experience has always been about promoting knowledge growth in others and witnessing that elusive ah-ha learning moment. So what common practices have I witnessed that are getting in the way of success?

Code Breaking (The Takeaway):

  • Sidetracked by chasing a related topic that is not part of the agenda.
  • Deep dive questions that extend the meeting length.
  • Not prepared for the meeting, or in the right mindset.
  • Distractions, cell phone Emails and texting.
  • High anxiety, exhibiting emotions of anger, guilt, etc.
  • Not speaking the same language as the Asset, possibly due to generational gap.
  • Not able to get the Asset to engage as a storyteller to determine where their knowledge stops and when the Handler can help identify how to move forward.

4. “VinNotVon” Live Drop (In Person Meeting)

Codename: “VinNotVon” Devin Keel, “Rusty Nail” Eric Hosier

“VinNotVon” is an overachieving Asset, getting close to earning his “00” status. He also has a unique perspective about information exchange process shortcomings.  We recently met at a clandestine location to discuss the outcome of his last “Wire Drop” (Skype) operation.  The exchange was brief but two major points were identified that added to his already growing intelligence file.  The “Wire Drop” operation was scheduled at a time outside normal working hours, and lasted 2 hours.

Code Breaking (The Takeaway):

  • Meeting time and length distracts from an already tightly scheduled day.
  • The ratio of readily useful information gained to what is provided can be improved.
  • An encyclopedia of information cannot be absorbed in a single sitting.
  • Get to the point, and stop going over information that I already know.
  • Let me talk to expedite the meeting until I need support.

5. “Pops” Dead Drop (Memory Intelligence)

Codename: “Pops” Bill Hosier, “Rusty Nail” Eric Hosier

As a 12-year old Asset, I practiced my reflex skills by using my Handler’s Wilson tennis racket to hit a tennis ball against the side of our training facility.  I attempted an ace service that would have made John McEnroe smile.  Yep, put that little yellow ball right through the basement window.  My mind prepared for the worst as my Handler “Pops” stepped off the porch, looked at the window and then looked in my direction.  I braced myself and then he said to me, “So how are we going to fix this?”  For the next half hour he instructed me through the process of cleaning up the broken pane, measuring the 9” x 9” void, cutting a piece of plexiglass to size and caulking it into place.  The method must have been powerful because I obviously remember it vividly after almost 40 years.

Code Breaking (The Takeaway):

  • He was able to identify the extent of my knowledge.       I was surely able to clean up the broken glass, know where the tools were located and could expertly handle a tape measure.
  • He filled in the blanks after my knowledge was exhausted.
  • I am certain that “Pops” was a little ticked off, but chose this to be a teaching moment to diffuse the anxiety that I was already feeling.
  • I walked away from the encounter as a more knowledgeable Asset.
  • Added this Empathy approach to my memory that I have called upon throughout the years, mimicked and passed down from Handler to many Assets.

Design Thinking Step #2 [Define] is up in our next issue. You are on the team, so please comment on this issue to add additional experiences that can be drawn from to create a solid project definition.

AS ALWAYS, SHOULD YOU OR ANY OF YOUR TEAM BE CAUGHT, THE CULTURE SPY WILL WRITE ABOUT YOUR HUMANIZING ACTIONS TO HELP OTHERS.  THIS SITE WILL NOT SELF DESTRUCT, BUT OUR EFFORTS HERE WILL GROW A GROUP OF FUTURE CULTURE SPIES, SO GOOD LUCK ON YOUR MISSION!

One thought on “The Asset Handler [Step#1 Empathize]”

  1. I opened the culture spy webpage and was hooked. I discovered this gem when the handler himself dropped a business card at my desk when I was not present…as a true culture spy would… I glanced over the homepage and then read on. Long story short I re-read step 1 three times, I look forward to reading on!

    Like

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