The Strategic Value of Nuancing

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 kickass strategy or a revolutionary campaign. According to the gameplan, this new initiative will change the world. Your competitors will be scuttled. You customers will come to you in droves.

In your view, the stars are all aligned.

And then the strategy hit a wall the moment you try to execute it. Your bosses laugh at its ludicrosity, your colleagues snigger, or the market hardly gives a whimper on roll-out day.

Why does an otherwise perfect plan fall flat on its face?

The answer? You haven't done enough nuancing.

What's that? 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 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 direction can result in a tipping point of positive - or negative - feeling towards your organisation.

Nuances provide that special "oomph" which a master chef knows will transform a dish from good to extraordinary. It is that finely calibrated effort which makes your company's new product launch transform from run-of-the-mill to buzz-worthy.

In practice, almost everything can and should be nuanced. However, let me start with some basic principles:

1) Timing. 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 roll-out a new staff incentive. What's more, one should also determine how best to implement a strategy - big bang or step by step.

2) Place. This works hand-in-glove with timing. Choose the right platform to announce your new service and pay special attention to how your message is articulated in different channels. Sometimes, chatting with somebody at the water cooler may work better than doing so at a formal meeting.

3) Design. Subtlety is key in the world of product design, and having the right mix of ergonomics, aesthetics and functionality can result in a new hit being created. Apple is a master in this game, and every new technology product is painstakingly crafted and shaped to ensure nothing is left to chance in the user experience.

4) Body Language and Tonality. Top salesmen are masters in reading their client's body language, anticipating their next action to move in sync with their customers. In this arena, ladies have a huge advantage over men with their keenly honed abilities to read, understand

5) Words. 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 your socio-cultural environment, and adopt the communication style that best suits the occasion or person.

Nuancing is both an art and a science. Years of trained experience and expertise play major roles in helping one to understand the finely filigreed complexities of the corporate landscape. You can't expect a struggling violinist to hit the right notes as well as a world class virtuoso.

Fortunately, newbies need not feel dismayed so long as they are willing to humble themselves to learn from their seniors. Spend time and effort talking and learning from folks who have been there. Over time, you will be able to shorten your learning curve and minimise making that silly mistake all because you are ignorant of the prevailing social norms and cultural traditions in your line.

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