In one of the episodes of Dragnet, which aired in the 1950's, it took a severe toothache and his partner's nudging to finally convince Joe Friday to approach the pain-filled potential of a dentist's chair. [Click here to see "The Big Frame"]. It is natural, people will avoid pain whenever possible. Avoiding pain, in fact, is one of the two basic motivators of people. The other is gaining pleasure. Pain, however as Joe Friday's behavior indicates, is said to be a much more effective motivator than pleasure. In fact, "actual" pain is not required for motivation, just the mere threat of pain -- the potential for pain.
I recently encountered a situation where merely the threat of pain was enough to ensure compliance with a simple request of mine. As they say in Dragnet, "Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."
So, I'm in a toy store buying my son a toy. The problem began when several store issued coupons were not calculating the proper discount in the store cash register. No matter how diligently the store clerk worked at entering them correctly, she could not seem to calculate the proper discount. The scanner wasn't working properly ... the coupon was printed incorrectly ... or some combination of the two. The store manager was called in to help resolve the discrepancy. Her unpleasant demeanor indicated to me that she must have missed the customer service training program when they offered it to her. The simple request I made was to give me the discount and figure out the problem with the coupons later -- after my son and I are long gone from the store. The manager's "solution" to my dilemma was to tell me that I could go home, call the 1-800 customer service line, and solve the coupon problem myself. Her attitude was, at best, unhelpful and her demeanor unpleasant.
i-Phone to the rescue!
I pulled out my i-Phone and she naturally thought I was taking her suggestion to call the 1-800 number myself. I started an app that turns your i-phone into an audio-recorder. I told her: "This is recording now … would you like to say that again to me (and she knew what I really meant was -- in the demeaning and disrespectful way you just said it to me a second ago)?"
Instantly she changed her demeanor and in minutes my coupon problem was solved -- by her, with a smile on her face, and a free balloon for my three-year-old son. I really didn't do much other than provide a vision of potential pain to her imagination. The pain of the possible recording of our next few minutes together possibly being played back to her boss (someday in the future) was motivation enough. Interestingly, her pain was self-imposed. I didn't have to make any threat. Just attempting to record the rest of our conversation was enough for her imagination to kick in.
Her desire to avoid "potential pain" reminds me of a situation I have seen in my legal consulting work -- the pain that is created by one lawyer who effectively uses cutting-edge demonstrative evidence against an opposing lawyer who doesn't use technology at all. My experience here in the northeast is that lawyers new to the use of presentation technology, often don't contemplate using technology until they are faced with a big case or until they encounter the pain of seeing their opponent using it. Those , however, are really not the ideal times to start learning how to employ visual communication.
At trial, I have personally witnessed the opposing client (as we are wheeling into the courtroom several pieces of electronic equipment) ask his own lawyer (opposing counsel), if they will be using similar technology during the trial, as well. Knowing my opponent's expected answer ("No,") and watching him try to come up with an explanation to his client why none of that equipment is necessary, is actually painful for me. At mediation, I have also witnessed very good lawyers, after having been confronted with a devastatingly powerful visual presentation (which demonstrates our client's command of the facts, and ability to professionally and effectively present the evidence), feel the need to explicitly address the disparity, attempt to downplay the use of technology, and justify to the mediator why they didn't prepare an electronic presentation of their own.
How satisfied are you with your current use of multimedia technology? Do you need to wait, like Joe Friday until the pain is overwhelming to embrace the new technologies available to trial lawyers today? Or are you leading the way?