Monday, 25 February 2013

Pondering artists' impressions and corporate gobbledygook

After dinner on Saturday evening, I walked with my friend to the Yarraville train station.  As we crossed the tracks, a man came towards us.  I was cautious until I noticed the police van parked nearby.   There had been an assault in the vicinity on the previous Sunday morning and police were seeking information.

We were shown an artist's sketch and asked we recognised the man.  This is the first time I've been directly asked this question.  I've seen pictures on television, but it felt more significant when asked directly.  I carefully studied the picture.  I needed to get past my initial idea that it wasn't a real person - it's the idea of a description of a person.  Then I said that I didn't recognise him.  I also studied the picture because I wanted to be able to recognise him if he's buying milk at the supermarket.

After leaving my friend to catch his train back to the city, I walked back to where my car was parked on the other side of the tracks, feeling cautious and self-conscious about the fact that I was walking alone.

I think it's an amazing skill to draw someone from someone else's description.  How do you get specific enough in the description to come up with anything other than a picture of a generic humanoid?  Whenever I have been asked to describe someone (or myself) it seems to be a list comprising gender,  hair colour and style, eye colour, height and clothing, which is fleeting.  I'd love to know how the artists do it.


On a different subject, I was bathed in corporate speak this morning while I was on a job.  People were seriously saying things to me like:

  • We're looking for an uptick on that.
  • Let's circle back on that.
  • What's your value add?
  • I understand the customer service value proposition.
After a while I found it hard to concentrate.  These meaningless strings of words washed over me as I struggled to understand.  And this was the biggest problem - the fact that it was up to me to decode the message being sent.  

Whatever happened to plain, direct communication?  What the hell is an "uptick"?  Is it one word or two?

I thought about a police artist trying to sketch a suspect in a situation where that suspect worked for a big corporation and spoke Manager.

"He was a senior leader who understood the value proposition of customer service.  I liked him.  He gave me an uptick on my appraisal and on passed the news to his leader who circled back and value added with me. Yeah, I liked him."


"Oh, he was 180cm tall, brown hair, brown eyes, looked after himself, you know? Sharp suits."

Tough gig.

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